Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY, WE EXAMINED the Discoveries portion of Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book. Today in Part 2, we see what Mrs. Curtis is cooking up.

The second portion of Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book , by Sidney Morse and Isabel Gordon Curtis, The Success Company, 1909.

The Author/Cook Speaks. “Ten years ago,” Mrs. Isabel Gordon Curtis says, “I was called to the editorial staff of Good Housekeeping [founded in 1885, it was to be acquired by Hearst in 1911]. No wider experience can be gained than in answering the questions that come from housekeepers to a home magazine…. Following Good Housekeeping came similar work on Collier’s Weekly, the Delineator, then on Success Magazine.”

Her recipes range from kitchen basics (Breads, Baking-Powder Breads, Sandwiches, Cookies, Cakes, and Doughnuts) to Fireless Cookery (of which more anon), and Favorite Dishes in Famous Homes (among them, Sponge Pudding from Mrs. William Howard Taft, Fried Okra from Albert W. Gilchrist, Governor of Florida, and Raspberry Buns from Mrs. Parker Morgan, one of the 400).

The Gov’nor’s Okra. “Take several pods tender okra, wash thoroughly, and cut into thin pieces crosswise; beat 2 eggs, season with salt and pepper, dip okra first into sifted meal, then into egg, again into meal, and fry in butter.” 

Gee, just like I make it.

Fireless Cooking. I had to research this one. Was it like ceviche, “cooked” in an acidic marinade? Was it akin to “smoking” over low heat? 

No, according to the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the purpose of a fireless cooker was to hold already heated food for long enough to complete its cooking. 

This and the following image from the National Agricultural Library.

A 1910 Department of Agriculture lecture described, “The cooking box is by no means a new invention, for the principle on which it is built, namely, protecting a hot article so it will keep hot for a long time, has been applied for countless years. For generations Norwegian peasants, among whom the whole family goes to the fields to work, have been in the habit of using so-called hay boxes in which their dinners cook during their absence. It is said that in Germany working people sometimes start their soup on the stove and then leave it between feather beds to finish cooking. Cooks in Maine lumber camps bury their bean pots in ‘bean holes’ in hot embers and ashes and leave them to bake during the day. The ‘clam bakes,’ so popular among our Atlantic coast, represent the same kind of cooking under other conditions.”

Another researcher noted that Native American Havasupai or Cocouinos had clay-lined roasting pots into which they’d put partially boiled food to complete its cooking.     

Mrs. Curtis shares a homemaker recommendation from Sarah Tyson Rorer, October 1908: “I am using the United States Fireless Cooker in both my kitchens, and would not, for many times its cost, give it up. Even with a gas stove, I prefer the cooker for long, slow cooking…. It is indispensable to the summer camp, house boat, or yacht.”

I wouldn’t say it’s timeless information, but it sure is interesting. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 


  1. sabresoftware
    April 4, 2022

    A recipe for a perfect medium rare 4 rib standing rib roast is to cook at 500 degrees for one hour, then turn off the oven and let it sit in the oven for two hours. But no opening the door to peek.

    • simanaitissays
      April 5, 2022

      How clever (yet obvious): The oven itself as Fireless Cooker.

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