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The Virginia House-Wife Hardcover – Facsimile, December 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 370 pages
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press; Facsimile edition (December 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872494233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872494237
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Introduction The Virginia Housewife: or, Methodical Cook By Mary Randolph Baltimore: Plaskitt, Fite, 1838 (1838) This is considered by some to be the first truly American cookbook and by all to be the first regional American cookbook. This work is still in print and still forms the basis of traditional Virginia cooking. It has been praised by many culinary authorities both for its delineation of authentic Virginia foods and its careful attention to detail. Upon its first appearance in 1824 it was an immediate success and it was republished at least nineteen times before the outbreak of the Civil War. In addition, copies appeared in the late nineteenth century and modern Southern authors aften reference it. The recipes in The Virginia House-Wife are simply splendid. It contains a number of Southern specialties, some appearing in print for the first time: Ochra Soup, Catfish Soup, Barbecued Shote (""This is the name given in the southern states to a fat young hog""), Curry of Catfish, Ochra and Tomatoes; Gumbo (""A West India Dish""), Chicken Pudding (""A Favourite Virginia Dish""), Field Peas, Apoquiniminc Cakes (a form of beaten biscuits). Clearly we are in the South. But Mrs. Randolph knew about much more than Southern cooking; she includes recipes from England, France, Spain, the East Indies, the West Indies and New England (Dough Nuts - A Yankee Cake), among others. Her Spanish dishes are most intriguing: Gaspacho, Ropa Vieja and Ollo. We find polenta, vermicelli, macaroni and curry. We find recipes for corning, for fricando and fricassee, for haricot and matelote and salmagundi; we have a-la-modes, a-la-daubes and a-la-cremes. We learn how to caveach fish and to pitchcock eels. Mrs.Randolph tells us how to pickle several dozen items, including oysters, sturgeon, lemons, onions, nasturtiums, radish pods, English walnuts, peppers, green nectarines and asparagus. Anyone who doubts that early Americans savored salads and vegetables need only look at what Mrs. Randolph offers. There are recipes for artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, French beans, Jerusalem artichokes, lima beans, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, potatoes, potato pumpkin, red beet roots, salsify, savoy cabbage, sea kale, sorrel, spinach, sprouts and young greens, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, turnip tops, winter squash, onions, and tomatoes. Indeed, Mrs. Randolph has seventeen recipes using tomatoes in the various editions of her cookbook. This provides further evidence to correct the misinformation that Americans did not use tomatoes prior to the mid-nineteenth century. We should mention Mrs. Randolph's wondrous ice-cream recipes. There are twenty-two flavors, plus variations, including black walnut, pineapple, quince, peach, pear, chocolate, citron and almond.

Karen Hess, wrote, ""The most influential American cookbook of the 19th century was The Virginia Housewife ... There are those who regard it as the finest book ever to have come out of the American kitchen, and a case may be made for considering it to be the earliest full-blown American cookbook. [it] may be said to document the cookery of the early days of our republic.""
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Born at Ampthill, her family's Chesterfield County plantation, Mary Randolph learned how to run an orderly household. She married her cousin, David Meade Randolph, of Chesterfield County, in December 1780. Moldavia, their Richmond home, became a center of Federalist Party social activity. Financial reversals led Randolph in 1808 to open a Richmond boarding house, where she provided accommodations and excellent meals to an elite clientele. Later the Randolphs moved to Washington, D.C., where Mary Randolph began to compile a housekeeping book that provided management hints; directions for preparing sauces, vegetables, preserves, puddings, ice creams, soups, breads, meats, beverages, and cleaning products; and instructions on crafting a home refrigerator. According to Randolph, "The prosperity and happiness of a family depend greatly on the order and regularity established in it." She was revising The Virginia House-Wife for a third edition at the time of her death. Randolph's younger sister Virginia Randolph Cary wrote the influential Letters on Female Character, Addressed to a Young Lady, on the Death of Her Mother (1828), the first advice book written by a southern woman for the women of her region. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By "oldreds" on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The author, Mary Randolph, was a member of the aristocratic Virginian Randolph family, and was reputed to be the best cook in Richmond, Virginia in the early 19th century. This book is regarded by most culinary historians as the first true cookbook of the American South. Randolph provides an introduction to food and customs of old Virginia and includes recipes and serving instructions for a wide range of soups, beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, fish, poultry, sauces, vegetables, puddings, creams, preserves, cordials, plus pickling techniques and the making of soaps, cleansers, and perfumes. As such, the book is not only an excellent cookbook, but also an excellent almanac and reference for historians and writers of fiction concered with the ante-bellum South. The recipes herein can easily be translated into today's methods of preparation, with the use of healthy ingredients. As a native Richmonder, this book was a staple in our home when I was growing up, and I can attest to the tastiness of many of the recipes herein.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Karen Hess does a great job of introducing you to the person that was Mary Randolph. She helps us understand the background of cooking and cookbooks in America. For those who are interested in how cooking was handled in the earlydays of the states, or for those cooks who are always looking to try something different - this book has a lot to offer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By daisy may (princeton,maine) on January 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is a most informative book a clear view into the everyday life of the housewife. gives a clear insight as to what people ate and the preperation of .it is a book i will keep among my books i save.to be enjoyed again by myself and guests alike.i have never been other than satisfied with items purchased through amazon.com items are exactly as stated in discription
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John A. Caudle III on September 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a facsimile of the 1824 original with two subsequent editions (1828 i believe and 1832? Don't have the book on me at the moment...) included. Terrific and forward-looking intro by Karen Hess (hell, her intro could have been written in 2011 considering current interest in localism/regionalism).

Recipes give the reader a unique insight into the self-sufficient home (prob. more accurate to say plantations or upper middle class homestead) and American Cookery before the widespread adoption of the gas stove in the late 1800's.
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By The Cook on April 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You learn to appreciate how things have changed for cooks over time. Well worth purchasing for persons interested in the history of food preparation.
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