Fashions in Food in Beverly Hills(1929)
Beverly Hills Women's Club
Beverly Hills, 1929
The books were compiled by The Beverly Hills Women’s Club, which was founded in 1916 and served as a unit for the Red Cross amidst the backdrop of WWI. The group’s members were primarily wealthy society women whose vision was to “explore intellectual ideas, literature, the arts, and philanthropic efforts.” Amelia Erheart presented a lecture to the Club in 1935.
Four years before this cookbook’s publication, the group moved into a Spanish Colonial Clubhouse, designed by architects Gable & Wyant. The building is now on the National and California Registries of Historic Places.
Long before The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, these Beverly Hills Women were making their mark on the city. The Club helped install the now famous Beverly Hills Electric Fountain (on Santa Monica Blvd. at Wilshire Blvd.) in the 1930s - pictured, courtesy of the LAPL Photo Collection.
There are four versions of this cookbook (published in 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1963) - all of which are part of this archive.
While the included recipes vary somewhat between editions, the first 3 all have the same introduction by cowboy performer Will Rogers (who also has his own cookbook named after him in this archive). Rogers was a beloved resident of Beverly Hills and was made honorary Mayor in 1926. Some other famous names exist in these pages as well, including Joan Crawford, Delores Del Rio, Norma Talmadge, Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, and Mary Pickford.
If the participants in this cookbook were affected by the 1929 stock market crash, it is not reflected in pages. In fact, Beverly Hills experienced large growth during this time, and the the cook books likely contributed to a sort of boosterism
The 1929 edition features a very early printed recipe for “Green Goddess Dressing,” which was invented by a hotel chef in San Francisco in or around 1921.
Interestingly, the one recipe that seems to survive through all four editions is for “Mock Oyster Scallop”, using eggplant.
The Beverly Hills Women’s Club is still in operation today as both a club and event venue.
I have cooked from this book!
I prepared the Casaba Melon Cocktail submitted by actress Zasu Pitts (pictured).
The use of casaba melon is a good example of the specificity of ingredients that appear in many of the early cookbooks in this archive. What we might now consider specialty items - green gage plums, cherimoya etc. - are often casually dropped into recipes, suggesting a large diversity of produce was available to many Los Angeles demographics.
Similar to, but sweeter than, a honeydew, the casaba melon was originally cultivated in the Middle East and the melons arrived in the United States in the 19th century. Today, California farmers are the largest melon producers in the country. Cantaloupe fields started appearing in the Imperial Valley in the early 1900s, and the state now grows 60% of the nation’s cantaloupe and 80% of its honeydew.
Pitt’s recipe inspired me to put together a chart of California’s musk melons (pictured). Although many aren’t as well known today, I’ve found that a wide range of melons are available throughout Los Angeles grocery stores and farmers markets from April through early July.