If You Invite A Suffragist to A Potluck: Thoughts on Laura Kumin’s “All Stirred Up”

My friend Christie surprised me with a gift of the book: All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food, and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote. It’s by Laura Kumin, author of The Hamilton Cookbook and the blog Mother Would Know.

I’m not much of a cook, but I do enjoy looking at recipes, especially when they come with a good story. 

In All Stirred Up, Kumin offers an account of the American suffrage movement as captured in the published cookbooks of the time. She includes a choice collection of old-timey recipes along with her own versions updated for modern tastes. In between recipes, Kumin provides well researched commentary and backstories about the people and food behind the movement.


A couple of recipes immediately caught my eye:

Jack London’s Stuffed Celery

“A most delicious relish is made with Roquefort cheese, the size of a walnut, rubbed in with equal quantity of butter, moistened with sherry (lemon juice will serve if sherry be not available), and seasoned with salt, pepper, celery salt, and paprika; then squeezed into the troughs of a dozen slender succulent sticks of celery.  This is a very appropriate prelude to a dinner of roast duck.”
-- Jack London’s contribution to The Suffrage Cook Book, published by L.O. Kleber, Pittsburgh

I like to picture Jack London, the rugged adventurer and social activist, bringing this dish to a neighborhood gathering of suffragists. Maybe Dorothy Day would be there too, with Lefty’s seafood stew?

Hot Cross Buns

My mom used to make hot cross buns every Easter.  The recipe in Kumin’s book was contributed by “The Domestic Science Department, Pratt Institute.”  That’s the university in New York famous for its School of Design. The domestic science department no longer exists. 

My mother majored in domestic science when she first went to college. She took a break to marry a farmer and raise nine children. When she went back to college three decades later, she changed her major to theology. It’s fair to say she had mastered the domestic sciences by then.

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

The recipe I tried first is Cock-A-Leekie Soup, and it is divine.  It is the best chicken soup I’ve ever made.

The name itself almost makes the dish. Who wouldn’t want to come home to a pot of Cock-A-Leekie soup?

The ingredients intrigued me: leeks, prunes, and allspice, with an optional splash of Worcestershire sauce. 

Leeks have been on my mind since reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s  “The Honorable Harvest” in Braiding Sweetgrass. There will probably be a future post on this.

You can find a variation of Kumin’s Cock-A-Leekie Soup Recipe in her blog Mother Would Know blog. The recipe I followed from the book didn’t use parsnips or curry—but I bet it would be good that way.


Backstories

I mentioned above that Kumin includes delicious backstories on the people and food behind the suffrage movement. 

For example, did you know that Julia Ward Howe, suffragist and author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was a tippler?

“She had always enjoyed alcoholic beverages and good food but according to her biographer, her father, her husband, and even her children tried to keep her away from them.  Nonetheless, she managed to find and enjoy those treats, particularly after she became a widow and did not have to contend with her husband’s attempts to control her.”

The suffragists were not above slinging mud. Victoria Woodhull was a suffragist leader and presidential candidate. Henry Ward Beecher (the brother of Harriet Beecher Stow, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) was a progressive minister who took potshots at Woodhull. He accused her of being a “depraved sex radical.” Woodhull responded by outing Beecher for having an affair with a Sunday school teacher who was from his congregation. 

It is both amusing and validating to know that leaders of great movements could be as easily distracted 100 years ago as we can be today.


Smooth The Exchange of Views

Whether or not you like to cook, and whether or not you know much about the suffrage movement, All Stirred Up is a worthy read. 

Kumin writes “….Food has been my preferred way to express love. It also smooths the way for an exchange of views.” 

Trying out some new old recipes sounds like a great plan for this election week and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. 

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