Category Archives: Other Things

Houston Civic Club Cook Book (1906)

Houston Civic Club Cookbook (1906)
[Cover of Houston Civic Club Cook Book (1906)]

Thanks go to Google Books for making this gem available online. This is the cover of a cookbook that the Houston Civic Club published in 1906. The cookbook includes many period advertisements, a short write-up of the Houston Civic Club’s history (it was founded in 1901) and mission, a list of club officers, the club bylaws and constitution, and an unsual ghost-story introduction (called “The Story of a Cake”).

But the most interesting aspect of the cookbook is the glimpse it provides into how Houstonians were cooking and eating 100+ years ago. Below is a sampling of some of the recipes included in its pages:

~SOUPS~
This section includes recipes for Turtle Soup, Oyster Soup, Gumbo, Crab Gumbo, and Crab Bisque. Also appearing in the Soups section are a number of non-soup oyster recipes: Scalloped Oysters, Oysters au Gratin, Broiled Oysters, Oyster Omelet, Oyster Pie, and Oyster Loaf.

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The Galveston Daily News observed in 1876: “Where crab and shrimp can be had so readily as in Galveston, every one should know how to make the inimitable French gombo.”

~FISH~
This section includes recipes for Fish Chowder, Deviled Crabs, and Baked Red Fish. There are a few other recipes as well, but it’s a pretty lean section.

~MEATS~
This is one of the more interesting sections. It begins with the extravagant-sounding “Steak with Oyster Blanket”. It also includes “Veal Doub”, Goulash, “Opossum and Potatoes”, and “Stewed Brains”.

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Opossum was not only not an unusual dish at the time, it was considered a delicacy. In 1907, the American magazine Collier’s, in an article about the German practice of eating horse and dog meat, observed: “There is apparently no reason why the flesh of the horse should not be cleaner and more palatable than the meat of the hog; or why even a fat dog should not be quite as tempting as a table delicacy as a fat opossum. Such matters are determined largely by custom and sentiment.”

~SAUCES FOR MEAT~
Included are four sauces: a caper sauce, a mustard sauce, a parsley sauce, and a cream sauce. The book does not say which goes best with opossum.

~ENTREES~
An odd short section that might have been better titled “Croquettes and Chili”. It encompasses only Salmon Croquettes, Dressing for Salmon Croquettes, Potato Croquettes, Chicken Croquettes, and Chili. (By 1905, chili was already so popular is was being canned by the Houston Packing Company.)

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~SALADS~
One notable salad is the Tomato Jelly Salad. The salad dressings all call for eggs.

~VEGETABLES~
This section gets off to a good start with a recipe for “Kartoppleklosse” (i.e., Kartoffelklosse, or German potato dumplings), and also features Sweet Potato Cakes, Sweet Corn Pudding, Potato Balls, and “Cabbage a la Cauliflower”. In addition, the Vegetables section is where you will find the obligatory macaroni-and-cheese recipe (“Baked Macaroni”).

~OMELETS AND EGGS~
Includes three different “Stuffed Eggs” recipes.

~BREADS~
The entire list of recipes in this section is: Biscuits, Drop Biscuit, “‘West-Tide’ Corn Bread”, Graham Bread, Muffins, Boston Brown Bread, Spiced Coffee Cake, Cheese Straws, “A Nice Way to Use Stale Bread” (i.e., French Toast), Grits Bread, Honey Muffins, Brown Bread, and “Wafles for Four”.

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~PIES AND PASTRY~
This section would have been more appropriately titled “One Puff Pastry Recipe and Several Pie Recipes”. The varieties of pie are: Chocolate, Lemon (x4), Molasses, Grape, Currant, Transparent, and Vinegar.

There is no pecan pie recipe, but that is not surprising. A 1910 article in the Galveston newspaper article about the “Texas pecan” suggests that pecan pie was not yet a Texas specialty – unlike pecan sodas: “Go into any soda fountain and you will see the word ‘Pecan’ on the soda bill of fare. You find it in cakes and in candies. They stuff dates with it. Why, they even make a pie of it. Never ate a piece of pecan pie? Lots of us are in the same fix, but those familiar with the pecan say there is nothing more delicious.”

~PUDDINGS~
The pudding varieties include: English Plum (x2), Woodford, Suet, Chocolate, Orange, Cream Apple, Cabinet, and Baked Apple.

~DESSERTS~
There is a whole world of desserts presented beyond the pie, pastry, and pudding categories. Such as Jellied Apples, Orange Marmalade Parfait, “An Easter Dessert” (eggs suspended in gelatin), Prune Whip, and Russian Cream. The Google Books file skips a page in this section.

~CAKES~
Yet another desserts section, and it’s a big one because it also includes cookies. Among the more exotic entries are “Suabian Wine Cakes”, Russian Honey Sticks, “‘Wenget'”, Lep Cake (a German Christmas-time tradition) (x2), and Leps (x2).

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~ICE CREAM AND ICES~
The desserts keep coming. Includes your choice of “New York Ice Cream” or “Philadelphia Ice Cream”. The ice cream sundae is called a “French Sundae”.

~CANDIES~
Early Houstonians plainly liked their sweets. The first recipe listed is for Sugared Pecans: “Take 1 pound of pecan meats, 2 cupfuls of sugar, 2 cupfuls water; place on stove and boil till thick; pour over pecans and stir till cold.”

~SPECIALS~
This appears to be the section for recipes that were hard to include elsewhere, like baking powder and pickle recipes. Here you will find Chili Sauce (an 1897 advertisement in the Galveston paper advised those recovering from Dengue fever that “chili sauce will give taste to your meat”), “Jambolaya” (x2), “Brain Cutlets”, and yet more Chicken Croquettes.

The San Antonio Daily Express told its readers in 1910: “Jambalaya is another Creole dish, the origins of which are unknown. Its essential ingredient is rice. With the rice may be cooked a dry stew of chicken, or sausage, or shrimp, or ham, or tomatoes. In Louisiana rice is used as a vegetable, and may appear upon the table three times a day.”

~BEVERAGES~
This section includes more pickle recipes, and a variety of non-alcoholic “cocktails”. No recipe for ice tea, but perhaps that’s a recipe every Houstonian is born knowing. (The “Ice Cream and Ices” section includes a recipe for a “Tea Frappe” that is essentially frozen ice tea.)

~YEAST~
Three yeast recipes: Yeast, Yeast Cakes, and Potato Yeast.

A few of the Houston Civic Club Cook Book’s many advertisements:

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1890 Map of Houston

An exciting addition to the Library of Congress’ online historic maps collection is the William W. Thomas & Co. large-format street map of Houston dated 1890. A large jpg version has been posted here).


[William W. Thomas]

According to the Houston Fire Museum website, William W. Thomas, a volunteer fireman, was elected to Houston’s Board of Aldermen in 1900 and chaired the board’s fire committee. Thomas appears to have served as an alderman until 1905 and, judging from newspaper reports from the time period, he was very active and outspoken in proposing and promoting city improvements. In lobbying for a new Harris County courthouse, he called the exisiting courthouse an “old shack”.

The 1890 map is especially interesting when viewed in comparison to the large-format 1913 J.M. Kelsen map of Houston.

Market Square Clock

clocktower.jpg
[Houstontx.gov]

The Market Square Clock stands in Market Square, at the corner of Travis and Congress. It incorporates the very same clock faces that looked out over the city, from 1904 to 1960, from the top of the fourth (and last) building in Market Square to have served as Houston’s city hall. After the building was destroyed, the clock was placed in storage, and ultimately ended up in a junkyard. The man who purchased the clock from the junkyard displayed it in an historical park in Woodville, Texas, but later returned it to Houston. In 1996, the clock was again displayed in Market Square, in a new modern clock tower. The clock must be wound every eight days. Each of its faces is seven and a half feet across. The new clock tower also houses a 2800-pound fire bell that survived the 1903 fire that destroyed the third city hall building in Market Square.

More information:
Houstontx.gov

Old Courthouse Oak Tree

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[Houston Chronicle]

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[Yan Lee pen and ink portrait – limited prints for sale]

If you look at the footprint of downtown’s Bayou Place from above, it features a noticeable zig-zag in its northwest end. The zig-zag accommodates the Old Courthouse Oak Tree, which majestically occupies the corner of Bagby and Capitol. The oak tree stood next to an early county courthouse, and is estimated to be 400 years old – possibly the oldest tree in Harris County. When the Albert Thomas Convention Center (which previously occupied the building now known as Bayou Place) was constructed in 1966, it was built around the oak tree, as shown below.

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[Houston Chronicle]