LESLIE, ELIZA. Eliza Leslie (1787–1858) was an American cookbook writer, poet, editor, and author of fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Although her primary literary activity focused on belles lettres, Eliza Leslie is remembered today mainly for the cookery books that launched her career as an author and earned her a national reputation as one of the most popular and influential American food writers prior to the Civil War.
In 1828, Leslie edited and published Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats, a collection of recipes she had compiled many years earlier while a student at the cooking school of Elizabeth Goodfellow in Philadelphia. The book was an instant success and quickly assumed its place as the first bestselling cookbook in the United States. This was followed by Domestic French Cookery (1832), Directions for Cookery (1837), The Lady's House Book (1840), The Indian Meal Book (1846), the first cookbook devoted entirely to corn recipes, New Receipts for Cooking (1854), and The New Cookery Book (1857), this last title being a massive reworking of her New Receipts. Many of these books popularized regional American foods (such as terrapin and okra) at a time when America was searching for a more distinct culinary identity. Of these, Directions for Cookery is generally considered Leslie's most influential culinary work, since it remained in print well into the 1880s.
Eliza Leslie's success has been attributed to several factors working in tandem: improved female literacy; a growing urban middle class in need of instruction on points of cookery according to American taste and ingredients; and the proliferation of the cookstove, the technological revolution upon which all of Leslie's recipes are based.
See also Goodfellow, Elizabeth; Maize.
Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 11, pp. 185–186. New York: Scribners, 1933.
James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, vol. 2, pp. 391–393. New York: Scribners, 1971.
Manuscript Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
William Woys Weaver
Take a large slice of ham (cold boiled ham is best) and two pounds of lean fresh beef. Cut all the meat into small pieces. Add a quarter of a pound of butter slightly melted, twelve large tomatas pared and cut small, five dozen okras cut into slices not thicker than a cent, and a little cayenne pepper to your taste. Put all these ingredients into a pot, cover them with boiling water, and let them stew slowly for an hour. Then add three quarts of hot water, and increase the heat so as to make the soup boil. Skim it well and stir it frequently with a wooden or silver spoon.
Boil it till the tomatas are all to pieces and the okras entirely dissolved. Strain it, and then serve it up with toasted bread cut into dice, put in after it comes out of the pot.
This soup will be improved by a pint of shelled lima beans, boiled by themselves, and put into the tureen just before you send it to table.
FROM: Directions for Cookery, 32–33. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1837.
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