Have you heard of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910)? She was was an influential American author, teacher, and religious leader, noted for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality and health, which she named Christian Science. She articulated those ideas in her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” first published in 1875. Four years later she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, which today has branch churches and societies around the world. In 1908 she launched The Christian Science Monitor, a leading international newspaper, the recipient, to date, of seven Pulitzer Prizes. (Disclosure: I am a staff editor for The Christian Science Monitor.)
The Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston now houses Eddy’s remarkable archival collection, which ranges from her many writings and letters to her wardrobe and even the carriage she rode in daily. This is one of the largest existing collections by and about an American woman. The library aims to provide public access and context to original materials and educational experiences about Eddy’s life, ideas, and achievements, including her Church, whose international headquarters are located in Boston.
The Mary Baker Eddy Library asked me to spend November testing some of the menu items found in their archive collection. I quickly agreed! I love historical recipes and what they teach us not only about the social and cultural issues of their day, but also what they reveal about our own modern experiences.
We kicked off the month this morning with a presentation and a conference call lead by library researcher Judy Huenneke, who gave an overview of 19th-century food traditions. For the morning program, we had a pot of Boston Baked Beans and Indian Cake on hand made by library researcher Taryn McNichol (thanks, Taryn!)
The way we grow, prepare, and cook food has changed drastically over the past century in the United States. By examining the menus of those who lived in Mary Baker Eddy’s household and comparing them to how we prepare food today gives a small snapshot of the social, cultural, and industrial forces that pushed civilization forward.
Over the next month, I’ll introduce you to a cook, Minnie Weygandt, who began working for Eddy in January 1899 and stayed through September 1907 while Eddy lived in her Pleasant View home in Concord, N.H. And I’ll also share recipes through my blog that might have been used in the household to recreate some of these favorite dishes such as, New England boiled dinner, custard pie, mince pie, stuffed eggs, oyster stew, and bannock bread, to just name a few.
I’m looking forward to this culinary adventure and hope you are, too!