Depending on a host of circumstances, a cookbook can be many things. Many were conceived as silhouetted passages recorded in family manuscripts handed down from generation to generation. Sprinkled with social history and darned in intimate family moments, these unpretentious hand crafted compositions cast a shadow on societies ever changing eating habits. I love them for many reasons. While cooking is the art of preparing food for the nourishment of the human body, cookbooks don't always paint a transparent glimpse into the living past but more of an interpretation as conveyed by the "artist." With these snippets of clues, one can imagine the blend of ingredients that shaped our palates. Authors may have had their purposes or expertise, however, as readers, we get to read between the lines. I treasure cookbooks for their functionality. Despite their age, these huddled messengers of the past, portray a distinct snapshot because of their combination of simplicity but also because of that essence they capture.
Along with Bibles, cookbooks were among the earliest of books printed. Many of these gifts from the past were seasoned with generous servings of medical advice, household hints, pictorial representations and stylish recipes. Bound in recognizable vignettes, chapter after chapter the virtues of domesticity were praised and rewarded. Some cookbooks became quite influential despite their narrative style. Today, I would like to share one such cookbook with you; the Lottie Moon Cookbook.
Who was Lottie Moon?
Born in Virginia on December 12, 1840, Lottie (short for Charlotte) Digges Moon was raised in a family "of culture and means" rooted in a deep foundation of Christian Faith and missionary devotion. She would grow to become one of the world’s most well known missionaries, mostly in rural China, and became a tireless advocate for support of foreign missions. Though she stood just 4’3” tall, she laid a foundation for solid support for missions among Southern Baptists.
Lottie Moon was born in 1840, third in a family of five girls and two boys, on the family’s fifteen-hundred-acre tobacco plantation known as Viewmont. Her father, Edward Moon, was the largest slaveholder (fifty-two slaves) in Albemarle County; he was also a merchant and a lay leader in the Baptist church. The Moon family valued education, and at age fourteen Lottie went to school at the Virginia Female Seminary at Botetourt Springs (later known as Hollins) and later at Albemarle Female Institute, Charlottesville where she became one of the first women in the South to receive both a bachelor’s degree and Master of Arts degree in teaching specializing in modern languages. A spirited and outspoken girl, Lottie was indifferent to her Southern Baptist upbringing until her late teens... (source)
The aroma of biscuits, ham, gravy, fired chicken, fresh vegetables, pigeon soup, and apple pie must have often filled Viewmont, a plantation home in Albermarle County Virginia...The kitchen was a separate building from the house and there were slaves to help with the work. Mrs. Moon, however, was the one who looked after the food and clothing for the family, directed their social life, and supervised the children's education and religious training.
Lottie seems to have been a refreshing individual with a happy and somewhat mischievous disposition. She loved the outdoors but nevertheless managed to master the "indoor arts" expected of young ladies then. Her bright mind was a challenge to the governesses and tutors who taught at Viewmont. With a mind of her own, Lottie did not seem religiously inclined and enjoyed the classics more than the Bible.
At the early age of 12, Lottie evidenced a flair for cooking. Sabbath day observance was very strict at Viewmont. All cooking for Sunday was completed on Saturday, and Sunday dinner was always served cold.
Somehow Lottie managed to remain at home one Sunday morning in 1852. While the family was at church service, she prepared a sumptuous meal all by herself. One wonders which Virginia dishes she chose to make that day! Lottie Moon Cook Book pgs.21-22
It is said, Lottie rebelled against Christianity until she was in college.
It was while attending school in Charlottesville that Lottie accepted Christ during an evangelistic meeting held on campus by then pastor John Albert Broadus. At the age of eighteen years old, Lottie Moon became a Christian on December 21, 1858. (excellent source)
There is a wealth of information available online about the legacy of Lottie Moon. I have left a few resources for you to explore below. After 39 years as a missionary, mostly in China's Shantung province, Lottie Moon died on Christmas Eve in 1912. In 1918, the Woman’s Missionary Union named the annual Christmas offering for international missions in honor of Lottie Moon. Each Christmas season, Southern Baptist churches collect the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support the missionaries and their work.
Although it was unusual for women of her time, Lottie had learned many languages, including Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish and Hebrew. In response to an inspiring missionary message she heard in February, 1873, Lottie Moon and her teacher friend, Miss A. C. Stafford, volunteered for missionary service. Single women were not usually sent as missionaries, but Lottie was not a believer in barriers. She found financial support from Baptist women in Virginia and was appointed as a Southern Baptist foreign missionary to China on July 7, 1873. She left port for China on September 1, 1873.
The Cookie Lady
When Lottie Moon sailed for China in 1873, she brought with her the latest edition of Mrs. Hill's New Cook Book. Originally published as Mrs. Hill's New Cook Book, a Practical System for Private Families, in Town and Country with Directions for Carving and Arranging the Tables for Dinners, and Parties in 1872, it is believed, Lottie's "go to" cookbook was the 1875 revised edition authored by socially prominent Georgia native Annabella P. Hill. (Annabella Hill raised six children and managed a household that included as many as ten boarders in LaGrange, Georgia. She also served as the principal of the local Orphan's School.) Although this website seems to have misspelled her name, there's a short article about Mrs. Hill's book here.
Though the actual copyright date of Mrs. Hill's New Cook Book was 1872, the flyleaf of Miss Moon's copy was inscribed "L. Moon Jan. 7th 1875." which indicates that Lottie Moon used these recipes for some thirty-eight years during her forty-year tenure as a missionary in china.(pg.7)
The Lottie Moon Cook Book is a compilation of recipes gleaned from Lottie's personal copy of Mrs. Hill's recipes. The selected recipes are those which Lottie Moon marked with an X. Some recipes were also annotated by Lottie Moon with comments and dates used. The last recorded date in her cookbook, May 18, 1912, was inscribed besides a recipe for Chambliss Pudding.
From the book:
Those first few years spent in Tengchow were busy but rather discouraging ones. There was distrust toward foreigners and she was often called the "Devil Old Woman." [she was 33 years old when she went to China] One day she tried a new method to reach people; cookies!... Chinese boys and girls couldn't resist the smell of those delicious cookies and as they munched happily, Lottie Moon had an opportunity to tell them the good news of Christ.
She served cookies many, many times through the years and used them as a point of contact with the Chinese people. Her cookie jar was also famous with children of missionary families who stopped over in her home from time to time.
Miss Moon, according to a China missionary, was lovingly nicknamed "The Cookie Lady." Her other more familar nickname came to be "The Heavenly Book Visitor" which replaced the "Devil Old Woman."
Lottie named her 300 year old home in China "The Little Cross Roads." Like a true home maker she transformed it into a little bit of old Virginia and greeted all who visited with Southern hospitality.
...Connected by an outer wall, three separate building or apartments surrounded a courtyard. One served as her own quarters, another as a guest house for foreigners, and the third as quarters for her Chinese servants and guests...When a newly appointed missionary, Dr. J. McF. Gaston visited her home in 1908 he commented that he had stepped into "Old Virginia" as he sat down to a dinner such as those served in that state. In one of her letters, (thank goodness, she was a prolific writer) Lottie mentioned she served oyster soup to her guests. Her home was a haven where weary missionaries from the interior of China could rest for a while. A crape myrtle brought from Virginia, touch-me-nots, hollyhocks, verbena and many roses scented the air where small crowds of women gathered to learn about Christianity.
For 39 years Lottie Moon labored in Tengchow and in P'ingtu. She fought many battles on behalf of the Chinese she grew to love. She was a leader in the effort to ban the foot-binding of young girls; She broke down barriers against the education of girls and labored under difficult circumstances.
It was in P'ingtu that Lottie first began to dress in Chinese clothing...Soon she was teaching and visiting from sunup to sundown. Often she would be inside a home teaching women, and the men would gather outside the windows to listen to her speak. She wrote, "I am trying honestly to do the work that could fill the hands of three or four women, and in addition must do the work that ought to be done by young men." (source)
After the Chinese Revolution, a famine struck China. Lottie continued to put the needs of others above her own. As she saw people starving, she gave away all she had to save them. She spent the last of her own money buying food for others. As she slowly starved, her Christian friends grew worried about her deteriorating health. On December 20, 1912 a missionary nurse, Miss Cynthia Miller, accompanied her as she set sail back to America. Aboard ship, on Christmas Eve of that year, while anchored at Kobe, Japan she died. It is said she weighed less than 60 pounds. On January 28, 1913, a memorial service for Charlotte Moon was held at the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia.
The inscription on her tombstone includes her name, the dates 1840-1912, and these words: "Forty years a missionary of Southern Baptist Convention in China. "Faithful unto Death."
The author of the 1969 edition of the Lottie Moon Cook Book, Claude Rhea, did not change any of the wording formatted in the original book. Many of the recipes include measurements for a tumbler full, of milk, or a gill of cream. Thankfully, a table of weights and measurements is included in the book for translation.
Since today is Gingerbread House Day, I thought I would include a recipe for Colquitt Ginger Bread found on page 184 of the book. A quick search leads me to believe the recipe is named after Colquitt, Georgia. However, one never knows for sure:)
1. Lottie Moon Biography
2. A Snapshot of Lottie Moon's Life
3. Lottie Moon’s Cookie recipe @ Chan Knits
4. Lottie Moon Booklet (PDF)
5. Lottie Moon: Giving Her All for China By Geoff Benge (limited viewing @ google books)
6. Descendants of Edward Harris Moon
7. Gingerbread House Day (previous post)