September 25, 2008

Marion Harland and Karo Syrup

Still examining the Corn Products Cook Book from the other day, I finally get as far as inside the front cover.

There I find an endorsement for Karo Syrup by Marion Harland, a pseudonym used by household advice and cookbook author Mary Virginia Terhune. An excellent post on this woman can be found over at Months of Edible Celebrations. No doubt her popularity with housewives was the reason the Corn Products Refining Co. chose to use her as part of their advertising.

I do not hesitate to award Karo the preference above any other table syrup used in my household.

As an accompaniment to waffles and griddle-cakes it deserves all that can be said in praise of it. It is as clear and as sweet as honey and richer in consistency, without the cloying quality that makes honey distasteful to some, and unwholesome if eaten freely.

I have also used Karo in the preparation of puddings and gingerbread, with satisfactory results. The candies made from it are pure and delicious.

This seemingly innocuous endorsement stirred up quite a hornet's (bee's?) nest with those in the honey industry. The January 1912 issue of the American Bee Journal contains a couple of references to her endorsement and they're not very flattering. An excerpt from one of the references is below. Check out the link to the remainder of the article--there was a great deal of concern that people might choose this product over honey.

(Karo) Glucose vs Honey Fraud in Advertising
By Dr. A. F. Bonney

No, there was no "gasping with astonishment" on the appearance of Marion Harland's article advertising Karo Corn Syrup, except on the part of the few bee men observing enough to see it. They (the bee men) might have thought a little helpless profanity but they are so used to seeing patent medicine advertisements, gold brick schemes, bluffs, rot gut whiskey, and other alluring literature, that they would scarcely see the article complained of in the editorial in the November American Bee Journal.

Personally, I believe Marion Harland pulled down a nice little wad of "long green" for this piece of literature, otherwise she is as ignorant as an Indian. That is all I have to say; there is no other explanation for the rankest piece of writing that ever appeared. More, she probably merely sold her signature, the glucose people having done the "writing."

I think we should felicitate ourselves that the Karo people take the trouble thus to advertise honey, for that is what they are doing every time they use the word for no one will believe what they claim, that the glucose compound is good as honey. American Bee Journal

I love how the writer refers to "the glucose people" and "the Karo people." I wonder if those at the Corn Products Refining Co. referred to the bee men as "the bee people."

The article also refers to an editorial in the November 1911 issue about this same advertisement, which gives us the second clue as to the publication date of the cookbook.

The honey industry published many of their own promotional cookbooks too. Once again, I'll send you over to Months of Edible Celebrations where she has a great article on honey.

September 22, 2008

Corn Maiden Logo

I started my semiannual stint as an antiques salesperson at the Round Top-Warrenton antique show yesterday. This means that for thirteen straight days I won't be having a lot of time to look at cookbooks or do much of anything else except drive there and back and peddle somebody else's antiques in between. If I want to finish my fall planting in the garden, I'm going to have to do it with a flashlight.

The closest I'll be to an internet connection during daylight hours is a neighboring vendor's Blackberry which he uses to repeatedly check on the weather for signs of impending rainstorms or high winds.

I had thought to write up a few posts in advance that I could post every few days right before I left in the morning. Seems a simple enough plan but it never works out that way. So here I am trying to get at least one post done before I head out this morning. Perhaps tonight I'll have time to catch up on all my blog reading. I'm way behind!

As often happens when I randomly pull out the cookbooks to write about, I always choose the ones that have a number of interesting facets. It will take a couple of days for this one.

The top of the stack is the Corn Products Cook Book (not dated, 40 pages) which promotes Karo Syrup, Kingsford's Corn Starch and Mazola Oil, all brands of the Corn Products Refining Company.

There are a couple of clues that we can use to date the booklet, the first one being that Mazola was not introduced to the market until 1911. Mazola was the first salad and cooking oil made from corn.

The cover of the booklet shows a lovely color rendition of the Corn Maiden, who appeared as part of the company logo in several different variations over the years.

She also appeared on packages of Argo Corn Starch, another of the company's brands, although Argo doesn't show up in this particular cookbook.

This variation is used on the foodservice packaging of Argo Corn Starch.

This one is used on the regular retail packages. She got a new look in 1992.

The last page of the booklet is an ad for the new Mazola product. No sign of the Corn Maiden on these cans. Also no sign of Mazola in the recipes which call for either butter or lard when a fat is needed.

Mazola is a pure, wholesome, vegetable oil refined especially for cooking purposes and for use in Salad Dressings and sauces. It is made wholly from Indian corn by a process that was successfully perfected after years of persistent work.

Mazola meets the demand among careful housewives for a vegetable fat to take the place of animal fats in the preparation of dishes for the family table.

Mazola is superior to butter or lard for frying. It stand the higher temperatures required for frying without burning, and is far more economical.

She does show up on the Mazola can shown in this 1925 magazine advertisement.

You can see the corn maiden (or corn woman) on the company's stock certificates in 1910 and 1956.

A most interesting use of the Corn Maiden is in this corporate party cake.

September 16, 2008

Organizing my Cookbooks

Where has the time gone--it's hard to believe that it's been almost a month since my last post. Part of the time was spent catching up on things after being out of town for a while and then I was sick for almost two weeks. Once I started catching up again after that then here came Hurricane Ike.

We survived the hurricane quite nicely in my small town just west of Houston--we were much more fortunate than many around us. It feels good to do something normal again, like post on this blog, although at the same time rather strange, in light of the devastation and problems just a short car ride away.

Someone asked in the Comments how I organized my cookbooks. I had been giving that subject quite a bit of thought these last few days, as the main room that my cookbooks are in sits at the front of the house which is almost directly beneath a 100 year-old oak tree.

I didn't voluntarily evacuate as was suggested by our Chief of Police, but I almost did, just because of that oak tree. In the end I stayed because of a stubborn cat who steadfastly refused to join her buddies in the carriers and because the west side of Houston was supposedly safe from the worst of the storm.

I keep many of my cookbooks on wall-to-wall bookshelves in this room. I have my desktop computer in here too and many of my reference books. I like having my desk at the front of the house because the street traffic I can see from the window is more interesting than that at the rear of the house. I could see a steady stream of trucks hauling away sheets of plywood last Thursday and Friday from the hardware store. The stream of mandatory evacuees from the coast was different than last time--it was actually moving. I saw more boats on trailers going down that road those two days than I saw the entire summer. Right now I have a hummingbird feeder hanging off the front of the porch that is just swarming with hummingbirds. I'm not sure if this is part of their normal migratory pattern or if it's something to do with the hurricane. There are so many of them--more than I've ever seen before.

After seeing some of the storm damage, and all those fallen oaks, I realize that although the tree didn't fall this time, it very well could the next time we get in a good blue norther. So I've decided to move the bookshelves to a room at the back of the house. It's not that big of a house, but if the tree ever does fall, they might not be totally destroyed in that room. (I seem to be obsessing over the tree falling--probably the result of a solid week's worth of media hype. Also the three days I spent picking up limbs and twigs from the yard.)

I have some plastic storage boxes of cookbooks that are in a closet. This would be the same closet that I'll be hiding in should a tornado come along, so they're already in the safest place they can be.

So far, only a part of the advertising cookbooks are catalogued in a database. I put those that are catalouged in numerical order on the bookshelves. For my purposes that works the best although sometimes I wish that they were grouped together on the shelves by manufacturer or product. Part of one shelf holds duplicates of those that are catalogued. Overall, I don't think I have that many duplicates.

The dates of the cookbooks range from the late 1800s all the way up to 2008. New ones come in the mail all the time.

I don't put them in little plastic bags although a few of them came that way. If I did scrapbooking, I daresay that I probably wouldn't be using archival supplies there either. I take my cookbooks off the shelves and look at them and use them way too often to have to be fiddling around with removing a protective wrapper. I do store all my books in air conditioning--Texas heat and humidity is murder on paper. I'm an expert on the cost of climate-controlled storage.

I spend a lot of time on these cookbooks but I really, really enjoy them and all they have to say to us.