Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yummy Soups from The First Texas Cook Book

Despite today's expected high temp of 96 degrees here in Fort Worth, Texas, autumn is on its way. To usher in cooler weather I thought you might enjoy some nice hot soup recipes from The First Texas Cook Book. Yes, that's how cookbook was spelled back in 1883 when this "thorough treatise on the art of cookery" was first published.

Compiled by the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, the book contains 721 recipes and 80 household aids. There were 72 contributors, 47 of them from Houston and included one man who submitted a recipe for "Yacht Pie." His tongue-in-cheek recipe suggests that "the more ladies you have on board, the more onions should be used." (I'll let you decide on his implication.)

The wording in some recipes is dated, ingredient measurements a bit vague, but it's fun to see how Texans ate back then, at least in towns and cities. At that time Houston had a population of around twenty thousand and boasted its first electricity in one hotel barroom. Ten railroads also entered Houston in 1883. The city had a mile of plank paving, 18 blocks of graveled streets and 2 blocks of stone pavement. The rest, as a rule, was dirt - or mud.

Now for those recipes I promised. These are taken directly from the book, so please make allowances for the format and any possible misspellings. Also keep in mind that these cooks could not dash to a supermarket for their ingredients.

Crab Gumbo

Take one dozen crabs, boil thoroughly and pick out; two and a half quarts okra, chopped, and one large onion, also chopped; fry two-thirds of the ochra with the onion; have a gallon of water in a pot, take two slices of ham, all the okra and two tablespoons of rice, put into the water and boil down to a thick gumbo; this will take two or three hours; season to taste, and about an hour before ready to serve put in the crabs [meat].

To make beef gumbo, use beef instead of crabs, and add a few tomatoes.

For chicken gumbo, fry a chicken brown and pick off from the bones, and  use in place of crabs or beef, adding tomatoes as before.
Mrs. T. C. Armstrong, Galveston

Chicken Soup

Cut up a large chicken, boil gently in three quarts of water, removing all scum; to half a gallon of soup add half a pint of rice, a few sprigs of parsley, pepper and salt to taste; boil till the chicken is done, add half a pint of sweet milk and one tablespoon of corn-starch, stirred into a spoonful of butter. The chicken may be taken out and used for salad, or picked fine and added to the soup. Old fowls are best for soup. If the soup is for a sick person omit the butter. By making this soup without rice, adding milk or cream and oysters seasoned nicely, you have a most delicious soup.
Contributor's name not given

Mushroom Soup

Cut a knuckle of veal in large pieces and break the bones; allow each pound a little less that a quart of water (milk is better), season with salt, half a dozen blades of mace and saltspoonful of cayenne. Boil until the meat falls to pieces, then strain into a clean soup-pot. Have ready a large quart of mushrooms, pealed and divested of their stems, put them into the soup, adding a quarter of a pound of butter divided into bits, each bit rolled in flour; boil until mushrooms are tender, keep closely covered, have toasted bread in small pieces in the tureen and pour the soup over it.
Mrs. T. W. House

Vegetable Soup

Two turnips, two carrots, four Irish potatoes, one large onion, one parsnip, a few stalks celery or parsley. Cut all very fine; add a spoonful of rice; put the whole into three quarts of water; boil three hours. Strain the soup, return to the kettle and place over the fire; add a piece butter the size of a nut; stir the soup until the butter melts; add a little flour, let it boil, and then serve.
Mrs. M. E. Warren

If you have the time and energy to try some of these recipe, enjoy!

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. I love old cookbooks. There is so much more in them than just recipes. The historical snapshots of the people and the times are priceless.

    1. I agree, Kaye. This cookbook includes some eye-opening household tips, and as you can tell, some of the recipes require hours of prep time. Let's us see how hard our ancestresses worked to put meals on the table

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  3. I have never had crab soup but that certainly sounds delicious. I love reading old cook books even though I don't much enjoy cooking now days. Great post and food for thought. ☺

    1. I'm with you, Caroline, when it comes to cooking. I also love reading old cookbooks. They reveal a lot about life in the "old days." Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I wonder why the measurements were vague. Do you think it was because most women back then spent so much time cooking that there was no feeling of need to be precise?
    With cooler weather about to arrive, I do look forward to hot soup and these recipes look positively delicious. Vegetable soup is a particular favorite of mine.
    What a delightful blog, Lyn. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1. Sarah, I think that's true, women back then didn't need to write down measurements. They just "knew" the right amounts. In fact, in slightly more recent times (ha!) I remember my mom making pie crust without measuring anything, and her crusts were always perfect. On the vegetable soup, it surprised me that the recipe said to strain it, thereby removing the veggies. I'd prefer to leave them in, wouldn't you? Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  5. I just love old cookbooks and the recipes they contain. There is just something so cosy about them, plus as I've gotten older, soup is even more enjoyable. Thanks Doris

    1. Glad you enjoyed! Let me know if you try the recipes.

  6. What a tasteful post, Lynn! Couldn't pass up the pun...Mrs WT House contributed the mushroom soup recipe. House was my maiden name and I don't run across it very often. My family was rooted in NJ and NY (and I don't like mushroom soup) so relation...Love the illustrations.

  7. Arletta, what a coincidence! Could be a branch of your family moved south, hmm? Love the pun!


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