Gathered Crumbs: A Collection of Choice Tested Recipes
Catholic Women's Club of Los Angeles
Los Angeles, 1925
The Catholic Women’s Club has its origins in home-meetings that began in Los angeles in the early 1900s. The Club had close ties to and shared many members with The Friday Morning Club, which also has two cookbooks in this archive.
Interestingly, in 1922, just 3 years before this book’s publication, The Catholic Women’s Club actually purchased the Friday Morning Club’s original clubhouse (which it had outgrown) and moved the building and furnishings from S. Figueroa St. to their own site at 927 Menlo Ave, near MacArthur Park. The building, designed by architect Arthur Benton in 1900, still stands in that spot today. By the 1980s it had been purchased and substantially altered by the South Korean World Mission Church, who still holds services there.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, one of the favored charities for the Catholic Women’s Club was Brownson House, the City’s largest Catholic immigrant settlement, founded by the Club's first president Mary J. Workman. The majority of those served at the House were newly-arrived from Mexico, starting with a wave of immigrants in 1910 escaping the upheaval of the Mexican Revolution. (note: The bi-lingual, 1935 cookbook Comidas Mexicanas from a Mexican Settlement in Pasadena is also part of this archive collection.)
Interestingly, many of the members of the Catholic Women’s Club proudly revered their heritage as “Spanish-Mexican” - an identification both intimately tied to California’s multi-ethnic history and also entangled with notions of White and Spanish racial hierarchy. In her essay, Keeping Alive the Old Tradition: Spanish-Mexican Club Women in Southern California, Eilleen V. Wallis writes;
“The women's clubs of Los Angeles were not merely the domain of the elite. Spanish-Mexican women from more middle-class backgrounds were also active in the club movement- Particularly notable were Maria de Lopez of San Gabriel, Manuela Orneias of Pomona, and the members of the Catholic Women's Club who worked in local settlement houses... they combined club work with civic activism.”
However, Wallis goes on to wonder, “Did upper- and middle-class Spanish-Mexican women in the Catholic Women's Club, the Friday Morning Club, or the Native Daughters of the Golden West have any awareness of or qualms about what was happening to working-class Mexican immigrants?” There is not much evidence that these women engaged with new immigrants beyond the settlement work shared by their white, fellow society members. Perhaps these charitable organizations and women’s clubs actually allowed multi-generational “Californianas” to distance and differentiate themselves from the new wave of Mexican residents.
Indeed, in the same essay, Wallis highlights a 1933 fashion show held by the Catholic Women’s Club that displayed heirloom gowns and mantillas passed down to current members (pictured). Wallis explains;
“In 1933, a female reporter from the Los Angeles Times covered a fashion show for her paper. Local club women dressed in satin gowns, and mantillas represented the "the olden, golden California days. Each garment, each shawl, each mantilla was redolent with romance. The very scent... carried one back to the days of Ramona." At first glance, this pageant appears to be another case of Los Angeles club women appropriating the "romantic" past of California for their own end...
[However] the 1933 fashion parade was not just another "brown-faced minstrel show." The women in those dresses, members of the Catholic Women's Club, were in fact the descendants of some of the most notable Californio families in Los Angeles' history. Instead of costumes, they were wearing the carefully preserved dresses and lace of club members' grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers. There seems to have been a not-so-subtle message embedded in this event. The participants, and the Times, carefully detailed each woman's descent from Spanish and Mexican California's ranchero class and, because Anglo-Hispanic inter-marriage within that class had been relatively common on the California frontier, the article traced participants' lineage to pioneer Anglo-Americans as well. All of the items modeled had been worn by earlier generations of Californianas when they had been in the presence of United States presidents and/or governors of California. In this one event, not only were these women stressing pride in their own families, but they also seemed to be reminding the audience and Times readers that previous generations of Californianas had been witnesses to and players in state and national
If this fashion show had been an isolated incident, one could perhaps argue that it was merely the kind of genteel afternoon's entertainment club women enjoyed and that any larger political or social messages in it were accidental. But such "heritage" fashion shows were a regular feature of regional club life in the 1920s and 1930s. So were "Spanish shawl dinners," Spanish-language instruction, enchilada parties, and fundraisers to preserve historic monuments commemorating the region's Spanish and Mexican past. By the 1920s, most of the region's women's clubs had special sections or auxiliaries dedicated to these issues. In these sections and in a variety of historic preservation organizations Spanish-Mexican women focused their organizational skills and talents to promote what they clearly viewed as “their” history and culture.”
While the 1925 Gathered Crumbs cookbook only hints at the dynamic Wallis describes, the book does contain a small section entitled “Spanish Recipes.” The section begins with a short Foreword by Club member Florence Dodson-Schoneman, the daughter of San Pedro Developer James Hilsey Dodson and Reducinda Sepulveda, a descendant of the prominent Sepulveda family. In the introduction, Dodson-Schoneman writes;
“California’s cooking is the blending of three peoples; Spanish, Mexican and Indian; also that the cooking we speak of is only known in California in its entirety although New Mexico, Arizona and Texas use some phases of it. Tamales are unknown in Spain and yuet they are always spoken of as a Spanish dish in California. To me the cooking is misnamed and should be called ‘Californian.’ The following are Californian recipes…”
The section goes on to impart recipes such as Albondigas a la Brujita (“Californian beef broth”), La Brujitas Mexican Beans, and La Brujitas Hot Dessert. Other recipes in the cookbook include Marshmallow Salad, Parsnip Fritters, Welsh Rarebit, Irish Pound Cake, Spiced Figs and Toast Water.
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Gathered Crumbs: A Collection of Choice Tested Recipes
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