Whitney Hale


College: Libraries

A Taste of Kentucky History

Published: Oct 8, 2013

See video

Video by Jenny Wells/UK Public Relations and Marketing. Transcript available for download.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 8, 2013) — Kitchens serve as more than a place to prepare food; they are cornerstones of the home and family. Just as memories are passed down through stories shared around the stove, recipes preserve traditions and customs for future generations. University of Kentucky Associate Dean of Special Collections Deirdre A. Scaggs and chef Andrew W. McGraw combine these two traditions in their new cookbook, "The Historic Kentucky Kitchen: Traditional Recipes for Today’s Cook," which the authors say "arose from a small recipe and a lot of curiosity."


Scaggs and McGraw have assembled more than 100 dishes from 19th and 20th-century Kentucky cooks. They scoured handwritten books, diaries, scrapbook clippings and out-of-print cookbooks from the UK Libraries Special Collections to bring together a variety of classic dishes. According to Scaggs, "While processing the Logan English papers, held by the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections, Andrew McGraw and I pulled a box to get a general sense of what was in the collection. Inside an arbitrary folder from a randomly chosen archival box, we found our first recipe."


Each recipe is complemented by descriptions of each recipe’s origin and helpful tips for the modern chef. The authors, who carefully tested each dish, provide recipe modifications and substitutions for rare and hard-to-find ingredients.


"Finding the recipes was just part of the process," McGraw said. "Cooking them was the lure."


This entertaining cookbook also serves up famous Kentuckians’ favorite dishes, such as John Sherman Cooper’s preferred comfort food (eggs somerset) and Lucy Hayes Breckinridge’s "excellent" fried oysters. The recipes are flavored with humorous details such as "[for] those who thought they could not eat parsnips" and "Granny used to beat ’em [biscuits] with a musket." Accented with historic photographs and featuring traditional meals ranging from skillet cakes to spaghetti with celery and ham, "The Historic Kentucky Kitchen," published by University Press of Kentucky, presents a novel and tasty way to experience the history of the Bluegrass State.


Recipes for this book came from a variety of Kentucky figures, including family members and servants of some of the state's noted artists, writers, educators and politicians. Collections with recipes featured in the book include:

· "Scott D. Breckinridge, Jr. Collection, 1801–2000," containing Breckinridge family papers pertaining to Scott Dudley Breckinridge Jr. and his family;

· "The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation Papers, 1777–1991," containing papers from the Clay, McDowell, and Bullock families and a few operating records for the foundation;

· "John Sherman Cooper Collection, 1927–1972," containing the personal and political papers of the U.S. senator from Kentucky;

· "English Family Papers, 1884–1986," containing works created by Frederick W. Eberhardt, Logan B. English and Logan E. English;

· "William D. Funkhouser Papers, 1881–1948," containing William D. Funkhouser’s zoology department records at UK and a series regarding the papers of his wife, Josephine Kinney Funkhouser;

· "Frances Jewell McVey Papers, 1857–1953," containing the former UK dean of women and UK first lady's personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts and research notes, diaries, address books, notebooks, documents, recipes, photographs, and scrapbooks;

· "Preston-Johnston Family Papers, 1755–1962," containing family papers reflecting the personal and professional lives of several generations of the Preston-Johnston family in Kentucky;  and

· "E. I. 'Buddy' Thompson Papers, 1800–1940," containing documents pertaining to Lexington history and the businessman and author.


In addition to her work at UK Libraries, Scaggs is the author of "Women in Lexington." McGraw is the sous chef at County Club Restaurant in Lexington.


UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.


The University Press of Kentucky is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The press has a dual mission — the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. University Press of Kentucky is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of UK and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.




A Sampling of Recipes from "The Historic Kentucky Kitchen"


Frances Jewell McVey’s Tomatoes with Eggs, circa 1920s


An interesting recipe from the early to mid-20th century. Fresh summer tomatoes are the key to making this a moist, flavorful dish. Don’t cook the eggs too long, or they will become hard; they will continue to cook briefly after being removed from the oven. The original recipe calls for moistening the dish with stock, but fresh summer tomatoes provide enough liquid. 4 to 6 servings.


Bread crumbs

2 to 3 large tomatoes, sliced ⅛ inch thick

Salt and pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons butter

4 to 5 eggs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour a layer of bread crumbs into an 11 × 7 inch buttered baking dish, add a layer of sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper the slices, and repeat until the dish is full. Add another layer of bread crumbs and dot the top with butter pieces. Bake for 30 minutes total. After 20 minutes, break the eggs carefully over the top, without overlapping, and return the dish to the oven until the eggs are set, an additional 10 to 12 minutes, depending on how firm you like your eggs.



Louise Ludlow Dudley’s Soda and Cream of Tartar Biscuits, 1876


These biscuits are a solid southern treat. Cooked as drop biscuits, they are tender and ready for butter, honey, jam or gravy, or to be stacked with eggs and meat. The original recipe calls for lard, but butter works just fine.


8 large biscuits

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons hot water

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Pinch of salt

About ¾ cup milk


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the cream of tartar in the flour and mix the baking soda in the hot water to dissolve it. Add the butter, salt and baking soda with water to the flour and mix it with the milk. Drop onto a greased baking sheet and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.



Nannie Clay McDowell’s Burgoo, 1882


There are few dishes as synonymous with Kentucky as burgoo. Many recipes call for the inclusion of meats such as squirrel, opossum and game birds. It is a dish that was made with what was available at the time. This recipe embraces that spirit, calling for "a chicken, a piece of beef, or any meat you like." We chose to use a whole chicken, which makes a nice broth while it poaches. Interpreted literally, this is a very basic burgoo; the original recipe does not mention any seasoning whatsoever. We seasoned it simply with salt and black pepper, but garlic, Worcestershire sauce, or apple cider vinegar would add a greater depth of flavor to the final dish. The original recipe also states, "You can leave out any of the vegetables you do not like, but it is better with them all." We used frozen vegetables, but fresh can easily be substituted. 8 servings as a main course, 16 servings as a side.


1 (3- to 4-pound) chicken

16 cups cold water

2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

7 to 10 new potatoes

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups corn

2 cups okra

2 cups peas

2 cups butter beans or lima beans

4 cups chopped cabbage


Place the chicken in a large pot, cover with the cold water, add the salt and pepper, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the chicken to simmer until cooked through, roughly 1½ hours. Meanwhile, dice the potatoes. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the pot and let them simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the corn, okra, peas, beans and cabbage and allow them to simmer an additional 15 minutes, stirring frequently. While the vegetables simmer, remove the meat from the chicken. Check the vegetables to make sure they are cooked through, and return the chicken to the pot. Add more salt and pepper to taste.



Mary M. Peter’s Almond Cream, 1889


This is like a smooth version of the rice pudding that one might get in an Indian restaurant. It can be adjusted for sweetness and should be placed in its serving containers before chilling. The cream is light and simple. We ground the rice in a coffee grinder (one that is reserved for grinding spices and the like). 4 to 6 servings.


4 cups milk

8 tablespoons ground rice

4 to 8 tablespoons sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons pure almond extract

Cream to serve


Boil the milk and rice until it is "as thick as mush," stirring constantly. Season it with sugar to taste and flavor with almond extract. Mold the pudding and let it chill in the refrigerator. Serve with cream.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716whitney.hale@uky.edu


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