Thursday, June 19, 2008

Recipe in Rhyme

Doughnut Recipe in Rhyme

"1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk,
2 eggs beaten as fine as silk;
Salt and nutmeg, lemon will do,
Baking powder teaspoons two;
Lightly stir the flour in,
Roll on pie-board, not too thin.
[With a cutter, make the rings,]
Drop with care the doughy things
Into the fat that briskly swells
Evenly the spongy cells.
Watch with care the time for turning,
Fry them brown just short of burning.
Roll in sugar, serve them cool.
Price a quarter for this rule."

Lucretia Allyn Gurney, Oregon, 1851

Lucretia crossed the continent on the Oregon Trail to homestead near Oswego, Oregon. This recipe came with her, not in a cookbook or on a recipe card, but as a lilting rhyme that she learned from her mother. Her mother probably learned it from her own mother, and then Lucretia passed this recipe along in rhyme to her children and grandchildren. This was a common method of passing along information from one generation to the next. Not only it is the stuff that legends are made from; evidently recipes were passed along this way as well. Reading and cyphering were not necessary with this method of communication and valuable family treasures were retained in this way.

Photo: Elm Street Antiques


  1. Hmmm, wonder how much flour... :D

    I did not know that recipes were committed to memory via rhyme. I do know that my grandmother stored a lot of recipes in her head never looking at a cookbook for many of her favorites. I always marveled at that.

  2. That is so interesting! I likewise had never heard of this before but it does make sense. Thank you for sharing this delightful tidbit.

    Have a delightful evening!

  3. What a great way to remember old recipes.

    Too many old recipes have been lost because when the people who made them passed away, the recipes in their head went with them.

    I remember one episode of The Waltons where Elizabeth decided to start writing down all of the grandmother's recipes as she was making them. Wish my mother had done this instead of cutting labels off of the backs of boxes and soup cans.


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