When I was 19 years old my grand parents in St Louis gifted me a copy of the 1898 White House Cookbook written by the first lady Ida Saxon-McKinley. For those who don’t know about these treasures of Americana, the White House Cookbooks instructed housewives of the day in everything from home remedies, cleaning, etiquette, and of course cooking. This was ages before Julia Childs was on the scene to teach us American cooks recipes from Europe and beyond.
As a rookie cook I was amused by the cooking instructions from a time when pretty much all cooking was done on wood stove/oven appliances. The electric stove wouldn’t be in significant production until 1908 and even then it was rarely found in a home. So if you were baking biscuits the recipe would say something like “ bake in a fast oven until desired brownness appears” or something like that. There was no heat measured in Fahrenheit like we see in modern cookbooks, or exact time it took to cook.
I prepared very few of the recipes in this antique cookbook over the twenty plus years I had the White House Cookbook in my possession as they just didn’t fit what I was cooking in restaurants or home. On a few trips to Marble, Colorado we would stay at some cabins from the 1930‘s that had wood burning stoves and I loved baking in the oven using wood for fuel like in my antique cookbook. It was a bit tricky as I had very few reps in this type of cooking but it always turned out well. I would think back to the directions in the White House cookbook and roast a chicken with vegetables and then bake a cobbler for dessert.
The cookbook mostly provided me with an interesting review of cooking history, and I read it often. One of the exceptional recipes was a fried corn dish that became a favorite vegetable of the day at a restaurant I worked at in Frisco. The cooks loved it because it was so easy to make. The management loved it because it was inexpensive, and everyone loved the taste. This tasty dish is accentuated by todays super sweet corn varieties whether you are using Silver Queen, or Peaches and Cream Corn this recipe lets the fresh summer corn taste shine brightly.
I also have my grand parents to thank for leaving me their entire collection of cast iron cookware that I use to this day. Some pieces are over a hundred years old and still quite functional. For todays post I think it’s appropriate to cook this dish in a pan from that era. I hope you give it a try with your favorite fresh or frozen corn to see how easy and delicious this antique recipe I’ve adapted from the 1898 White House Cookbook is.
3 1/2 to 4 cups fresh corn cut off the cob, about 3 large ears
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons half and half
pinch or two of ground white pepper
salt to taste
Heat sauté pan or cast iron skillet for two minutes on medium low heat.
Add oil and corn and cook for five minutes stirring every 30 seconds or so on medium heat.
Kick up the heat to medium high and add half and half and white pepper cooking for one to two more minutes.
Add salt to taste and serve.