Baking With Emily Dickinson

As I waited on an email this afternoon, I was “thumbing” through digital copies of The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics when I came across this interesting article in a 1906 edition. I’ve excerpted the sections with the recipes. Enjoy!

Note: The rice cake is gluten-free!

Emily Dickinson as Cook and Poetress

by Helen Knight Wyman

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

So sang the Amherst recluse and poetess. We think of her as all soul and voice; but, as Mr. Higginson relates, at their first personal interview she said to him that “she made all their bread because her father liked only hers; then saying shyly, ‘And people must have pudding!’ — this very timidly and suggestively, as if they were meteors or comets.”

In a favorite cookery-book belonging to my mother (an own aunt of Emily Dickinson) are many leaves added to the quaint pages of the original book, published in 1831. On these were copied, or pinned in, recipes given by relatives and friends, and proved and tried and found good.

Among these are two from Amherst that I trust will prove interesting to readers of this magazine, proving that she was not altogether

A creature all too bright and good
For human nature’s daily food!

The following is for a corn-cake, being copied by my youngest aunt, but signed “Emily Dickinson.” It is followed by another, given by a New York aunt, and the words are added, “Both are delicious.”

Emily Dickinson’s Corn-Cake

Wheat flour, two tablespoonfuls.
Brown sugar, two tablespoonfuls.
Cream (or melted butter), four tablespoonfuls.
Salt.
Eggs, one.
Milk, one-half pint.
Indian meal, to make a thick batter.

On another page is a recipe for rice-cake as follows. Rice-cake was considered our very best “company cake” in my childhood, being carefully placed in a large tin pail, and only used when outside persons came to tea. The rule was much richer than this, however, and it was baked in sheets, very thin, and cut into squares after coming from the oven. Mace (or nutmeg) was the spice always used in it.

Emily Dickinson’s Rice-Cake

One cup of ground rice.
One cup of powdered sugar.
Two eggs.
One-half a cup of butter.
One spoonful of milk with a very little soda
Flavor to suit.

Cousin Emily.

Susanna’s note: For additional info, check out Emily Dickinson and Cooking, which includes a recipe for her gingerbread!

2 Replies to “Baking With Emily Dickinson”

  1. Thanks. I had never thought of her domestic side or that she might have recipes. Not that either recipe is one I am eager try, but they are interesting.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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