The Virginia Housewife



The Virginia Housewife: or, Methodical Cook
By Mary Randolph, 1838 edition

The Virginia Housewife cover

This is considered by some to be the first truly American cookbook and by all to be the first regional American cookbook. This work is still in print and still forms the basis of traditional Virginia cooking…Upon its first appearance in 1824 it was an immediate success and it was republished at least nineteen times before the outbreak of the Civil War.

The motto is “Method is the Soul of Management”. No, I don’t quite know what that means, either.

But I don't want to make jelly from feet.

But I don’t want to make jelly from feet.

I think I love Mrs. Randolph. So much bread. Especially incredible biscuits, because it is the South. Mrs. Randolph made Apoquiniminc Cakes. Cannot pronounce it, or spell it, for that matter, but o I will eat it, because I am a Southerner. And dem’s biscuits. Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits, yes ma’am.


Also, preppers, I got you, too, and so does Mrs. Randolph. Let us pickle everything that will hold still. I mean everything:

oysters, sturgeon, lemons, onions, nasturtiums, radish pods, English walnuts, peppers, green nectarines and asparagus. Everything.

This may look like a Henri Fantin-Latour painting, but actually, it is pre-pickled lunch.

This may look like a Henri Fantin-Latour painting, but actually, it is pre-pickled lunch.

Nasturtiums are flowers. Pickled flowers. That’s some awesome prepper shit. That’s the intersection of hippie and prepper.





Apparently there have been some nasty rumors about early Americans not appreciating the mighty toh-mah-toe. Let us lay waste to that lie right here and now.

We have always eaten these bad boys.

We have always eaten these bad boys.

Mrs. Randolph has seventeen recipes using tomatoes in the various editions of her cookbook. This provides further evidence to correct the misinformation that Americans did not use tomatoes prior to the mid-nineteenth century.

BOO-yah. Right there. Right there.

This sounds more like a spell culled from the Arabian Nights. I'm sure it is nice in crowded rooms--to clear them.

This sounds more like a spell culled from the Arabian Nights. I’m sure it is nice in crowded rooms–to clear them.



And, because it’s still summer, even though I am pretending it is already autumn, and happy flannel and bulky sweater weather weather I can’t hear you lalalalala

I give you pre-Civil-War ice cream recipes:

We should mention Mrs. Randolph’s wondrous ice-cream recipes. There are twenty-two flavors, plus variations, including black walnut, pineapple, quince, peach, pear, chocolate, citron and almond.


Oh, citron. Bumpy lemon. The lovechild of a squash and a citrus. Gotcha.

Oh, yeah, and that oyster ice cream that was mentioned in Tom Sawyer? It’s here, too.

Mrs. Randolph wasn’t just into noms. She was an inventor: her sketches for a washtub and a refrigeration unit at

I am planning on cooking from this beauty (read: making Larry do it), and I promise reports and pictures. No oyster ice cream, don’t even ask.


And here’s your Dollop grand finish: Mary Randolph was the first person to ever be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Yes, the first burial at Arlington was a civilian woman. I love unexpected history.


Pages: Food, Food: Bread





About Carla

This Bluestocking bookworm is your friendly Dollop web-wrangler and digital library curator. In other words, pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. I'm just here to John Nash all this stuff together. It's all about connections. IT'S ALL CONNECTED. I live atop a mountain, geographically isolated for the protection of others. Yes, an American mountain.