A Platter of Thoughts

A Piece of History


As a chef, home cook and foodie,  I am honored that I had the opportunity to research Martha Washington, Hannah Penn and Ellen Emlen (19th century housewife) Cookbooks and notes.  Being at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania I felt like I could have stayed for hours researching all these treasures.  The staff there was super helpful, which made my visit a pleasure.  Okay let’s get to the fun part. 

imagesCAV9H008IMG_20130117_173613Hannah Penn: Second wife of William Penn, she was 24 and he a 52-year-old man.  They had 8 children together.  When searching for Hannah Penn’s cookbook I came across recipe pages instead and all these were with William Penn’s notes and paperwork.  I couldn’t hold back and looked through some of his notes to paperwork from 1605 highlights of Act of Taxes year, and so much more.  I then reached Hannah Penn’s recipe pages.  It was interesting to see how many Homemade Medicines she had in those pages from how to clear blood-shot eyes to stomach medicines.  Her handwriting was a little harder to read, so some of the recipes were difficult to understand.  But amazing pieces for sure.


Martha Washington’s Cookbook: This book was actually given to Martha from her first mother in law Mrs. Custis (the book was actually passed down in the Custis family.)  She became a widow at the age of 25, and was a mother of 4.  Lady Washington brought a lot of wealth into her 2nd marriage to George Washington.  Mr. and Mrs. Washington did not have any children together.  So the cookbook that she kept in her possession for 50 years, she gave to her granddaughter Nelly Parke Custis (from her first marriage.)

The recipes in this cookbook are interesting.  I think a lot of this stuff we would probably not enjoy today, but they made do with what they had back then.  It’s truly amazing what they made from boiled roaches (yes I said roaches) to Tarts, Stews and  Mead.  The cookbook was written in the 17th Century, the recipes and language point out to England of where mostly likely this book was written in.  The reason being; because it did not contain any ingredients of the Colonies in the Americas.  You can see that the influence here was heavily from French cookery.  The book half way through stops, and you have to turn it around.  That is where you can find the cakes and desserts.  In the middle of the book were numbers and calculations of some sort, which makes you wonder what that might have been.  This cookbook was purchased By Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1892.  A piece of history which I was truly honored to have held and looked through.


Ellen Emlen’s Cookbook:  Ellen was married to George Emlen in 1840.  She was a 19th Century housewife.  Not many really knew who she was, but what I can tell you is her cookbook was so well categorised, with well over 200 recipes.  She was very precise on her recipes.  Important notes in them would be underlined.   These underlined parts were sort of like notes or reminders.  Rosewater was actually very much used in those days before Vanilla came into play.  There was a lot of preserving recipes as well.  The great thing with this cookbook is that The Historcial Society of Pennsylvania has made a replica of it for purchase.  It’s such a great piece to own.  Here is where you can purchase a copy http://hsp.org/shop/publications/ellen-emlens-cookbook

I hope you enjoy this post and the photos.  I thought how wonderful this would be to share with all of you.  For more information on The Historical Society of Pennsylvania  please visit http://hsp.org/

I also wanted to thank The Historical Society of Pennsylvania for having me, letting me take photos, and giving Homemade Delish a chance to have this wonderful experience that will never be forgotten.  All pictures are courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

I’m also going to be recreating something from here for President’s day in February, so stay tuned.