Home Daily Outfits Plain black: Mourning dress advertised in early cookbooks

Plain black: Mourning dress advertised in early cookbooks


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Sometimes, advertisements in community cookbooks dating back to the late nineteenth century hint at the importance public mourning customs. The “Excelsior Cook Book,”Two advertisements, published in 1891 by Congregational Church of Rutland (Vt.), highlight the need for proper mourning clothing.

The C.E. Ross, which sold fabric, and sewing notions, advertised “Henriettas and other fine Black Goods always in stock.”Henrietta was a finely weaved, woolen twill fabric made from a fine yarn. It was very expensive and well tailored. Black Henrietta was a matte-textured fabric that was appropriate for mourning and was considered dignified.

Mrs. F.C. was a milliner. Eddy advertised “mourning goods a specialty.”Milliners also sold accessories other than hats. To complete an ensemble, you could also buy black parasols and black-bordered handkerchiefs.

It was customary in New England to wear black every day for a period of mourning when this cookbook was published. The more socially privileged you were, the longer you were expected mourn and the more elaborate your mourning costume. Women were expected not to mourn for as long as men. The most privileged widows might wear a white cap with a black bonnet, a long black veil, and black gloves. They would then wear the cloak for at least a year before changing to gray or mauve. Because mourning outfits were costly, widows who were less wealthy would opt to dye their clothes black and not buy a new wardrobe.

The practice of wearing black every day for a period of mourning was discontinued by the federal government during World War I. They considered it to be a bad idea for morale and discouraged mourning attire. The Wilson administration created the Gold Star program to recognize families for their patriotic sacrifices. They encouraged them to hang a banner in the windows with a gold star for every family member who died while on active duty.

The church ladies who wrote it “Excelsior Cook Book”They were able to sell advertising space to other businesses, in addition to the fabric store and the milliner. Their cookbook is an excellent resource that includes more recipes that can be adapted to 21st-century tastes than other community cookbooks.


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One such recipe is called “Chicken à la Tartare,”This is an early version oven-fried chicken. This recipe is lighter in calories and easier to prepare than fried chicken. You can easily scale up the recipe and use chicken thighs on a bone instead of chicken breasts. To make the dish healthier, you can substitute vegetable oil for butter.

Camille Boisvert, a Gouldsboro artist, created the illustration. You can view more of her work at artclb.blogspot.com.

Chicken à la Tartare

3 slices of fresh bread
½ tsp. Dried rosemary
½ tsp. dried marjoram
½ tsp. 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
¼ cup melted butter
2½ lbs. Split chicken breast halves
About 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. 1/8 tsp.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place bread and herbs into a food processor and blend to crumbs. Melt ¼ cup butter. Mix 1/4 cup butter with flour. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper on both sides. Butter the chicken pieces and then apply breadcrumbs on the skin. Place the chicken skin side down in a baking tray. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink near the bone.

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