Book Reviews

Maryland’s Way: The Hammond-Harwood House Cook Book by Mrs Lewis R. Andrews and Mrs J. Reaney Kelly (2012)

(Available through www.HammondHarwoodHouse.org)

What do the historic Hammond-Harwood House and Tulip Hill in Galesville have in common? Aside from being both National Historic Landmarks and beautiful historic houses built near the end of British rule in America, they share a unique bit of Maryland culinary history. In one the idea of a cookbook that emphasized local Maryland traditions and ingredients was born to help the other fulfill its mission. Specifically, Mrs. Hope Andrews of Tulip Hill, who was serving as the president of the Hammond-Harwood House Association, and her close friend and fellow trustee, Mrs. Frances Kelly, decided they needed to raise funds for the Hammond-Harwood House museum by producing and selling a cookbook which would incorporate the culinary traditions of Maryland’s historic past.

In 1958 they began testing recipes and reading old manuscripts and after five years of hard work they produced a masterpiece of 372 pages filled with classic photographs by Aubrey Bodine and Marion Warren and over 700 traditional recipes springing from historic 18th- and 19th-century Maryland cooks’ notes, diaries and recipe books. They decided to call the book Maryland’s Way as a tribute to local cooks who tended Maryland kitchens in the time before electric ranges, ready-made cake mixes and TV dinners.

Tulip Hill can rightfully claim to be the birthplace of Maryland’s Way. There, Mrs. Andrews and Mrs. Kelly sifted through old documents to discover the histories of Maryland’s greatest colonial houses and their ancient kitchens. They compiled the recipes, but then needed to ensure that they were suitable for modern kitchens. Alice Brown, the cook at Tulip Hill, was tasked with testing them, and they found a willing taste-tester in Mrs. Andrews’ teenage nephew Harry Cannon. He vividly remembers Alice preparing all of the recipes as he eagerly watched, waiting to sample the results of her culinary endeavors. He still holds her partially responsible for his lifelong love of cooking and cookbook collecting.

The first edition was published in 1963, and by 1975 over 43,000 copies had been sold, making Maryland’s Way an important source of funds for the Hammond-Harwood House. The book went through 14 editions, until the last copies were sold. By then methods of printing had changed and reprinting was not feasible. Essentially Maryland’s Way had come to the end of the road. But this year, 50 years after the initial publication of the book, the trustees and staff of the Hammond-Harwood House have resurrected the cookbook, and with it the dream of Mrs. Andrews and Mrs. Kelly to provide a way to support the preservation of the Hammond-Harwood House.

Maryland’s Way is more than just a cookbook. It is a history of old Maryland homes, a photographic essay of a way of life that was already fading in the mid-20th century, and a captured moment of the Old Bay State’s culinary traditions. There is a recipe for everyone. For example, for the hunter there is an 1831 recipe for broiled venison steak from Cedar Park on the West River, for the vegan there is onion pie from Araby in Charles County, and for the gourmet there is oysters au gratin from Mulberry Fields Farm in St. Mary’s County. The historical asides are glimpses of times gone by, like the menu from President James Monroe’s visit to Cedar Park in May of 1818, or the simple supper served to members of Annapolis’s Tuesday Club in the mid-18th century.

In honor of the cookbook’s 50th anniversary, the Hammond-Harwood House will honor it with a new edition and a celebration. Every year, the house holds a garden party, and the 2013 version will be held at Tulip Hill, taking full advantage of the historic house and its beautifully terraced landscape that sweeps down to the picturesque West River. Available at the celebration, Maryland’s Way will be available in the Hammond-Harwood House shop, and can also be downloaded as an e-book. For information, visit www.hammondharwoodhouse.org or call 410.263.4683. All proceeds from the party and the cookbook support the mission of the Hammond-Harwood House, a nonprofit organization.

~ Carter Lively

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

Doubleday, New York (2011)

This fascinating book focuses on the intersection between politics and science in 19th century America. President James Garfield’s death was caused by what today we would call medical malpractice, not by the bullet from the gun of assassin Charles Guiteau. In 1876 as Garfield was attending the Centennial Exhibition, a British physician, Joseph Lister, was speaking at the medical congress in an adjacent building, attempting to convince his colleagues of the importance of anti-sepsis—a sterilization process used to kill germs which he had shown prevented infection after surgery. This discovery had become accepted on the Continent, but American doctors were loath to abandon their practice for a complicated new approach to medicine. Lister was subsequently to be knighted for his discovery and Garfield to die for the lack of its implementation.

Another scientist at the exhibition, Alexander Graham Bell, was to also play a role in Garfield’s death struggle. After his successful presentation there of the telephone in 1876, his reputation became pre-eminent. As Garfield declined from his wound, the consulting physician, Dr. Willard Bliss contacted Bell to see if he could locate the bullet that was lodged in Garfield’s chest. Bell worked night and day to develop a magnetic process that was strong enough and portable enough to do the job. While he failed, due to the time constraints of Garfield’s injuries, his induction balance subsequently saved lives at home and in the battlefield during World War I.

Anyone who read and enjoyed The Devil in the White City will relish this book for the way that intersecting lives impact each other. Garfield was a very bright young man who had in determination, good nature and kindness, what he lacked in opportunity. He rose from being a scholarship student to a teacher at Hiram College and from there was launched on the political stage. He was probably the only elected president in American history who did not actively intend to seek the office. In his few months there, Garfield was recognized as a man who was fair, clear of vision and determined to rid the country of a poisonous patronage system. This book sets Garfield’s remarkable life within the social, scientific and political contexts of his age.

~ Tricia Herban

The Whiteness of the Whale

By David Poyer

St. Martin’s Press (2013)

If you were brave enough to once again cast off your lines and go back to sea in your boat after reading David Poyer’s prior novel, Ghosting, then prepare for far stormier seas and deeply chilling dangers in his latest seafaring thriller. In The Whiteness of the Whale  the author evokes memories of past sea tragedies as told in Melville’s Moby Dick and Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship, Essex.

The story begins as a disparate crew of eight, four men and four women, is assembled to go to sea upon a large sailing vessel, Black Anemone, to harass the whaling ships and report the horrors of illegal whaling by industries and nations.  In carrying out their mission, they will reveal their own obsessions through the violence and passions of their anti-whaling efforts.

The voyage departs from the southern tip of South America, destined for the offshore whaling regions near Antarctica. Below 60 degrees of south latitude, this region of the world is forbidding, its sea unforgiving. Through the eyes, heart and mind of the principal protagonist, Dr. Sara Pollard, the story unfolds, and her checkered past guides her actions and views. Interpersonal conflicts abound with the behavior of a narcissistic actress and a testosterone-filled crew. Mix that with their passion to help the whales, and the deaths of man and beast begin to pile up.

To use the author’s words the book is a story of the “struggle to survive” and “Darwin’s insight.” And, as in Ghosting, Darwin’s judgments will be merciless.   Poyer’s descriptions of the sea and its environment are intensely real, beyond graphic. You will feel trapped in the ice floes, hear the wind and seas tearing through the rigging, and visualize waves so high a foreboding sense could immobilize you. Even the titles of the 21 chapters conjure up fears and elicit anticipation as Poyer’s  novel  progresses. They provide a hint of what is to come, tantalizing the reader’s imagination.

Time and again the author will have his characters step aside into either a philosophical discussion of the tragic mass slaughter of whales or into an analytical narrative between animal behaviorists and scientists among the crew. That method of writing deepens the plot, making it intellectually interesting. Keep your dictionary close by, as now and again the author challenges your vocabulary.

The next time that you go to sea after reading this novel, do not forget the words of  “The Navy Hymn,” Eternal Father—the restless wave, the mighty ocean deep and peril on the sea all come alive. The ocean is indeed master of all upon it.

~ Phil Ferrara, pferrara65@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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