Danties That Are Bred In A Book
The Shakespeare Club of Pasadena was founded as a reading circle by Claribel Thompson and Lydia Nash in 1888. Though the women met at First Congregational Church, the Club may be the oldest, non-Church affiliated women’s club in Southern California. The reading group originally convened in Thompson’s home at 346 W. Palmetto Street, and then in the its first Clubhouse at North Fair Oaks and Lincoln Avenues, now the 210 freeway.
To accommodate growing membership, a new Clubhouse was built on South Los Robles Avenue, and a large auditorium added in 1924 (pictured, courtesy of the Hunting Library archive). By 1929, the Club had over 1,300 members. While the organization did host theatrical performances, lectures, and many events, it was primarily a social and philanthropic “who’s who” of Pasadena and Los Angeles society.
Club Historian Candace L. Campbell writes;
“... the Club became a forum and launching-point for numerous “progressive” ideas of the new century. Public kindergarten, public restrooms, Juvenile Court and the Pasadena Humane Society are but a few of the projects initiated by Shakespeare Club volunteers.
One of the oldest Club traditions is their association with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, which began in 1897, contributing toward prizes each year and serving picnic lunches in Tournament Park to visitors. The Shakespeare Club entered its first float, a decorated carriage, in 1906, and had four prizewinning floats in the years 1929-32. The Queen’s Luncheon, held at a regular meeting of the Club, has been a tradition since 1952.”
The Shakespeare Club still exists today in Everett House on South Grand Avenue.
I have cooked a (truly delicious!) recipe from this cookbook, by caterer Bertha L. Turner. Turner was a significant figure in Los Angeles food history and is connected to several of the books in the Community Cookbook Archive. See more in the “Pictured Recipe” section of this entry.
I have cooked from this book!
I made Bertha L. Turner’s Deviled Egg, Tomato and Crab Canapés!
Bertha L. Turner (pictured) was a well-known Pasadena caterer, who also served as a State Superintendent of Domestic Science and ran the tea room at The Hollywood Bowl for many years.
She was the compiler, in 1911, of “The Federation Cook Book: Recipes contributed by the Colored Women of the State,” which serves as a significant, early example of how middle class African American women cooked at home.
As with many of the early organizations in this book, The Shakespeare Club, if not explicitly, was functionally segregated, and Turner’s inclusion in this cookbook was not as a member but as the Club’s longtime cateress.
However, it’s important to note that Turner was a “club woman” herself, active in the Sojourner Truth Industrial Club and the YWCA amongst others. It is likely she sourced some of the recipes in her Federation Cook Book through the California Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
Tessa Grimes, an Architectural Historian, gives a glimpse into black society life in turn-of-the-century Los Angeles;
“L.A.’s African American “club women” were also famously involved in an early housing civil rights battle, when they rushed en-mass to support a black homeowner under threat from her white neighbors. These women’s clubs provided a political outlet for women, since the earliest black civil rights organizations were limited to men, and women couldn’t vote in California until 1911. However, the second generation of civic organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League, and the UNIA were open to women, giving them new avenues of participation. Nonetheless, the unique service contribution of the organizations such as the Sojourner Truth Industrial Club and Women’s Day Nursery Association continued.”
While she was a vital member in Pasadena’s African American club life, Turners’ relationship with The Pasadena Shakespeare Club was in a professional capacity, and her included recipe offers a glimpse into why she was such a sought-after caterer.
At the time of this cookbook’s publication, her dish of deviled egg, tomato, and crab canapés would have been quite en vogue.
As food historian Tori Avey explains;
“In 1920, when American laws of Prohibition went into effect, most citizens responded not by abiding, but instead by taking their drinking habits underground… One way of ensuring that patrons didn’t leave inebriated, thus drawing unwanted attention to the secret saloons, was to serve patrons small amounts of food throughout the night. Canapés like finger sandwiches and stuffed mushrooms proved to be the perfect solution. These small bites could be carried in one hand, drink in the other, while guests socialized.
Another way Americans dealt with Prohibition was to host private alcohol-centric parties at home. Cocktail parties existed years before Prohibition, and the banning of alcohol may have actually helped these gatherings to rise in popularity. Canapés were a popular choice for these home-hosted parties. In Fannie Merritt Farmers The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1918, there is a section called Sandwiches and Canapés. Included are recipes for a number of finger foods including Bread and Butter Folds, Lobster Sandwiches a la Boulevard, Sardine Canapés, and Cheese Wafers. Cocktail parties continued to thrive even after Prohibition, and are now considered by some to be an American institution.”
The word canapé originates from the French, meaning “couch”, and is likely a pithy reference to the toast as a seat cushion of sorts.
Turner’s dish is elegant enough for hosting company, and yet simple enough for the home cook. I used a quail egg, to keep the portions even more “bite-sized.” It’s absolutely delicious!