Saturday, March 28, 2015

Clementine, once more

I've written twice about the mostly-forgotten food writer Clementine Paddleford. As I promised in those posts, I've bought a copy of her long-out-of-print cookbook How America Eats. I find it just as remarkable as her admirers claim. The book is almost 500 pages long, with several recipes per page.

Paddleford collected each recipe from a specific source: often a woman who was locally recognized as an excellent cook or a group of women; sometimes from chefs or other food professionals. In the book as in her newspaper columns that it was based on, she provided a story about the recipe, its author, and about foods that were popular in each city or area. Thus it's impossible to do justice to such a book! Here are a few example pages and quotes:

My newly acquired copy of the 1960 edition of How America Eats.
Dust jacket just a little worn.
Paddleford included a section on every state except Hawaii.
This is one of the illustrations for Alaska:
most of the black & white photos show important landmarks and scenery.
"Alaska -- Rosy the Dawn -- Rosy the Salmon" is the title of a section about Paddleford's "short course majoring in salmon in the Northwest." She wrote: "I followed salmon in their tearing hurry from river's mouth to spawning grounds, from river's mouth into nets, into boats; then to the canneries. ... By late August I was on intimate terms with the whole luscious pink-meated tribe from pale Coho to sister Silver, to big brother Chinook, King of the clan. I got chummy with light rosy Chum, so inexpensive, and met brilliant red Sockeye." (p. 433)

Paddleford visited Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, collecting recipes for the fish, crabs, and other seafood of the region.
The wives of the fishermen said they would freeze or can the catch: "it's fish for a year." She published their recipes for Moulded Salmon, "Salmon Box" (baked), Salmon Patties (from a can), Salmon Souffle, Baked Stuffed Salmon, and several crab recipes.

On a fishing boat, a 72-foot cannery tender, she tried sourdough pancakes prepared by Chef Phil Kerr. "Sourdough is a staple of the Far North," according to Phil, she wrote. "In the early days it was used throughout the Northwest and California, providing pancakes, biscuits, and other such products. This fermented dough came into use as a substitute for the fresh leavening in the pioneering days. A sourdough starter then was worth its weight  in gold to those who lived far from a trading post. In the Klondike the trappers and miners and prospectors were so dependent on this forever-keeping dough they became known as 'sourdoughs.'" (p. 439)

At the time that Paddleford published her book, sourdough wasn't well known as it is now. Similarly unfamiliar, I'm sure, were many other regional foods she described: foods with limited geographical availability; immigrants' foods; and specialties of diners, small restaurants, and home cooks throughout the country.

As my friends in the culinary book club pointed out, this comprehensive cookbook should serve as a reference to those who write American food history -- but I fear it will remain obscure!


Tina said...

I like looking through old cookbooks. Sometimes you find some great recipes and often they bring back memories of our parents, the fare my mother would prepare.

Marjie said...

During a conversation about cranberry juice with my husband, I mentioned "wild" yeast in the air, and that's how sourdough starter works. He was amazed, and mimed looking about for those wild yeasts. Silly man. I've had sourdough starters, some years ago, but the kids weren't fond enough of sourdough bread for me to keep up with it. It's a shame Paddleford isn't better known, because her books sound good.

Pam said...

That's quite a name she has and I enjoyed reading about her. She definitely knew her salmon tribe and what a fish to enjoy. Sourdough pancakes sounds pretty good also.

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

I love checking out retro cookbooks!

Jeanie said...

This is incredible. I must look at the used stores to find one of her books. Amazing.