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Archive for the ‘Mary Baker Eddy Library’ Category

On most American Thanksgiving tables, pumpkin pie is as much a presence as the turkey centerpiece. In modern forms it may appear as a flan, a cheesecake, or a frozen whipped delight.

In a Victorian-era cookbook, “The Art of Cookery: A Manual for Home and Schools” by Emma P Ewing, I found a recipe for a pumpkin pie that surprised me for two reasons: the heavy use of molasses and no cinnamon.

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Say the words “boiled dinner” to today’s epicurians and you might be greeted with a grimaced face that seems to say, “Boiled? It sounds simply awful!”

In fact, boiled dinner is quite delicious. The corned beef is cooked until it melts in your mouth and the root vegetables are so tender they can be sliced with a spoon. It’s also so easy to prepare without much watching that it could be called the original slowcooker meal.

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An easy place to begin for a month of Victorian recipe testing is custard pie. With its short list of ingredients, not much go wrong with this simple dessert.

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A perfect place to start a discussion about Victorian menus at the end of the 19th century in Boston, Mass., is with baked beans and brown bread.

Boston earned its nickname “Beantown” for the wide consumption of baked beans by its residents. The Puritan sabbath lasted from sundown on Saturday until sundown on Sunday, and this time was reserved for quiet piety and refrained from any exertion, including cooking. Baked beans provided an easy-to-prepare dish for the Puritans. The bean pot could be kept in the slow heat of a fireplace on Saturday evening that could be served for dinner on Saturday and for Sunday morning breakfast.

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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.

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