Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book, edited by Lily May Spaulding and John Spaulding

Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book

By the mid-1800s, American middle class women frequently turned to Godey’s Lady’s Book for household advice, sewing patterns, and recipes. Although founded by Louis Godey, from 1837 to 1877, it was led by Editor Sarah Josepha Hale and under her leadership, circulation rose dramatically. In Civil War Recipes, Lily May and John Spaulding have done a very nice job of selecting recipes from the first part of the 1860s run of the magazine and presenting them along with enough culinary history to make for an interesting read.

Though the time period does coincide with the Civil War, shortages meant that a number of these recipes might not be doable as writ—something the editors point out as well as giving likely substitutes, particularly in the Confederacy. They also give enough historical notes so that readers will better understand the realities of the period. For example, the cast iron stove had been invented for decades, but in fact they were somewhat rare so many recipes assume a simple hearth for cooking.

Civil War Recipes is written in a very enjoyable manner.  It conveys the spirit of the times in a rather lively way and should appeal to cooks and history enthusiasts alike, and dozens of recipes are included, such as Coffee Syrup (good for travelers!), Pork and Apple Fritters, and Lemon Gingerbread.  Below is a recipe for Rout Drops.*  [1862]

Mix two pounds of flour, one pound of butter, one pound of sugar, one pound of currants clean and dry; then wet into a stiff paste, with two eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, the same each of rose-water, sweet wine, and brandy; drop them on a tin plate floured. A very short time bakes them.

*“A rout was a fashionable gathering or large evening party popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Rout Drops were probably made for very special social gatherings or receptions.  The use of the very delicate flavorings of rosewater and orange-flower water suggests this possibility.”