With just a little scratching and stirring it’s fun to find the story hidden behind this dull green cover.
Its author, Daisy Breaux, was born in 1863 to immigrants from Canada and Ireland. She married three times, and as noted in her obituary, “each of her husbands being prominent, and each building a mansion for her.”
The first husband was a Charleston banker, the second a New Jersey bank president, and the third was a “distinguished Washington jurist.”
In each of her households, she entertained presidents–Cleveland, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson–along with the Prince of Wales and the Sultan of Fez. She really was a famous hostess.
And she’s feeding her guests accordingly. There are lots of terrapin and lobster recipes, elegant sauces, and delicate desserts like Peach Meringue Cake. But she seems to have picked up most of her recipes during her first marriage–they have a distinct Southern turn–Hoppin’ John, Barbecued Spare Ribs, Sweet Potato Pone, Brunswick Chicken Stew, and Mint Juleps.
She doesn’t strike me as a woman who would tie on an apron to make Pureed Peas, cooked with a sprig of mint, or Eggs Benedictine. But there are hints in the book about the skilled cooks behind the scenes. “Mom Hannah,” her “old cook in Charleston” outdid herself with breakfasts of “fruit in season, fried whiting and hominy grits, hot biscuit, chops, steak, stewed kidney or liver, always winding up with waffles and syrup.”
But even if she wasn’t cooking, Breaux was paying attention. She recommends the soft clams on the New Jersey coast, steamed and dipped in butter. She warns you not be break the gall bladder when cleaning a terrapin or you have to throw the whole thing out. She’s also a fan of Bisquick and Velveeta–“pepped up with Worcestershire, mustard and tabasco,” or served as Golden Buck with a poached egg on top.
The recipes are a mix of traditional Southern, Victorian puffery, and ladies’ lunch dainties. It’s quite a departure from current celebrity cookbooks which seem to be about green drinks and gluten-free.
Her last mansion, by the way, was Rossdhu Castle in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After her death, it became apartments, then a nightclub, and was eventually torn down when the land was rezoned for smaller, single-family homes.