There are three bibles in a true southern woman’s house: The Holy Bible, Gone with the Wind, and Southern Cooking.
And I bet Southern Cooking is the one that’s the most worn from use.
Published originally in 1928 by Mrs. S. R. Dull it contains every possible recipe imaginable: opossum stew, a ca. 1869 wedding cake, tomato aspic, and how to prepare squirrel. It contained about 1,150 recipes originally and was instantly a best seller in the south. In fact, there were only a few years in the 1980s that the eighty year old book has ever went out of print. In 1941, Mrs. Dull came out with a newer version and added 150 recipes to the original and did some tweaking to her older recipes.
Born in Georgia in 1863, she lived to be over 100 years old. She saw the way women cook change from over open fire, to wood stoves, to electric ovens, and finally to gas. She worked at the Atlanta Journal for twenty-five years writing weekly cooking columns, as well as with Atlanta Gas Light giving demonstrations to women around the southeast about cooking.
Ask any southern woman–especially if they’re over 60–and they will know about Mrs. Dull I can assure you.
I have two copies–a new reprint of her 1928 classic and a very special copy–one of my most prized possessions actually.
You see, Mrs. Dull was actually C.’s great-great-aunt and was known as “Aunt Hennie” to her family.
I was given a signed 1928 edition cookbook for Christmas a couple of years ago by C.’s great aunt. In it, Hennie has an inscription to her brother and his wife. I cherish it. The book has a special place of honor on my dining room mantle next to my Grindley Malta and Johnson Brothers sugar containers. Not just anything makes it to a place on one of my mantles–it has to be something very special and this book is.
I use the newer copy almost weekly. Strangely, most of her recipes can still be used today; it’s like they’re timeless. My favorites are her cakes.
The Devil’s Food Cake is perfection. Trust me.
I wish I could have met Aunt Hennie and talked food with her. From what I hear she was a delightful, giving woman and I’m sure I would have loved her.
Amazon says this about her cookbook:
“Southern Cooking had its origins in Henrietta Dull’s immensely popular cooking column in the Atlanta Journal, whose readers faithfully clipped its recipes. The demand for reprints of perennial favorites or early, hard-to-find dishes prompted Mrs. Dull to compile them into her now-famous book. Not only does it include individual recipes, but it also suggests menus for various occasions and holidays. Her famous Georgia Christmas Dinner, for instance, consists of grapefruit, roast turkey, dry stuffing, dry rice, turkey gravy, candied sweet potatoes, buttered green peas, cranberry jelly, celery hearts, hot biscuits, sweet butter, syllabub, and cake. Mrs. Dull was one of the most sought-after caterers in Atlanta even before she began her newspaper column. Her vast, practical knowledge of food and its preparation, and her embrace of new, but never gimmicky, innovations in cooking served her readers well. Upon Mrs. Dull’s death in 1964 at the age of 100, the Atlanta Journal said that her book was “the standard by which regional cooks have been measured since 1928.” Southern Cooking is the starting place for anyone in search of authentic dishes done in the traditional style.”