Our History of Food & Drink Collection is full of surprises, including recipes, household management guides, books on nutrition and dietetics, advertising ephemera, children’s cookbooks and nutrition publications, and information on the history of cocktails in America. We’re working hard to add some original materials, too, and we now house more than two dozen handwritten receipt books, compiled recipe collections, and faculty papers. This “How to Cook a Husband” was a small manuscript item discovered among a box of publications in 2010. And its catchy title was hard to resist.

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Like many manuscript materials, handwriting is always a challenge. In general, if you spend a few minutes with it, you’ll get the hang of it. In the meantime, here’s a transcript:

A good many husbands are utterly spoiled by mismanagement in cooking, and do not turn out tender or good. Some go about the task as if their husbands were balloons. They blow them up, others keep them constantly in hot water, others let them freeze by their carelessness and indifference. Some keep them in a stew by their irritating way and words. Other roast them. Some keep them in a pickle all their lives.

It cannot be supposed a husband will be tender or good so managed but they are truly delicious when properly treated.

In selecting your husband, you must not be guided by a silvery appearance, as in buying mackerel, or by the golden tint as in salmon. Be sure you select him yourself as tastes differ and be sure you do not look for him at market for the best are always brought to the door.

It is far better not to have any unless you patiently learn how to cook them. A preserving kettle lined with the finest porcelain must be used, yet if you have but an earthen pipkin, it will do if carefully handled. See that the linen in which you wrap him is nicely washed & mended and with the required buttons and strings neatly sewed on.

Lie him in the kettle with a strong silken cord called Comfort, as the one called duty is apt to be weak. They are apt to fly out of the kettle and get burnt and crunchy on the edges since like crabs or oysters you have to cook them alive. Make a good steady fire out of love, neatness and cheerfulness. Set your husband as near this as seems to agree with him. If he sputter and fizz, do not grow anxious. Some do this until quite done.

Add a little sugar in the form confectioners call kisses & spice if used with judgement may be added. No sharp instrument must be stuck into him to see if he is tender. Stir him gently and you cannot fail to know when he is done.

If thus treated, you will find him digestible, agreeing nicely with you as long as you do not grow careless and stick him in too cold a place.

The  contents are based on a popular story that uses cooking metaphors to instruct young women in treating their husbands well (assuming, of course, that a young lady has already locate and hook a young man). Although the creator of the original story is unknown, the story is thought to have originated in New England in the early 1880s. A  finding aid for this collection is available online.

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2 thoughts on ““How to Cook a Husband,” Or, Metaphors in the Kitchen

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