Home > History of Wine > “The hold-over prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval”: The rise of wine cookery in 1934

“The hold-over prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval”: The rise of wine cookery in 1934

After the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the legal availability of wine in America was reflected in newspapers and books.  In particular interest for this post is the rise of articles and cook books featuring the use of wine as an ingredient through 1934.  Starting at the beginning of the month of Repeal, pictures of dishes with accompanying recipes were published in newspapers with titles such as “Roast pheasant and wine-flavored sauce”[1] and “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”[2].  It was felt that these recipes would be “collected by the up-to-date hostess for use at smart dinner parties”.  Mrs. Penrose Lyly led off with a specific wine for her recipes in “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”.[3]  “Cooking Art Is Now Being Rediscovered” by Cynthia Proctor is perhaps one of the earliest articles about wine cookery having appeared on January 21, 1934, in the Boston Herald.[4]  With wine described as an enhancement, several recipes were presented to “add zest” to one’s menus.  These recipes include “Beef and Oysters au Vin” utilizing “port wine” and even “Wine Jelly” with angelica.

It seems the first American wine cookery book was published by The Browns on July 12th, 1934.  The Boston Herald reviewed this book of “epicurean delights” on July 21, 1934.[5]  However, the main focus of the review is that the Brown’s were “not so exclusively devoted to wines as to fail to include this recipe for roast peacock”.  “The Wine Cook Book” was reviewed by The New York Times a day later on July 22, 1934.  This review is more descriptive of the layout of the book than embracing of the wine based recipes.[6]  The author felt The Browns who wandered “over the face of the earth” produced a unique cook book that would delight “the epicure and the connoisseur of foods and drinks” but the “prohibitionist will shake his head in sorrow and disapproval.”


Another important wine cookery book came out during the fall of 1934.  Ida Bailey Allen’s “The Wine and Spirits Cook Book” contained “many ancient and many modern suggestions for gracious living”.[7]  One reviewer found it a book “to present to yourself as a special celebration, or buy for a friend who enjoys trying new dishes and dressing up old favorites.” [8]  This book must have enjoyed some popularity for Ida Bailey Allen had her own daytime radio show, was the first female television host with her show “Mrs. Allen and the Chef”, and became editor at Good Housekeeping magazine.

Not all wine cookery books were entirely new publications.  Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking School Cook Book” was updated to include recipes with wine.[9]  I should note that this and “The Wine Cook Book” were published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston.  The San Francisco Chronicle felt it was a signal to women that “so famous an institution” as the Boston Cooking School saw fit to include recipes “that require quantities of California’s noted vintages.”  Even the “Delineator Cook Book”, edited by Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose of Cornell University, added a chapter on wine cookery.[10]

Ida Bailey Allen writes in her Forward that right after Repeal she received many letters and queries on the service and use of wine and liquors in cooking.  In order to publish her wine cookery book she had to perform “necessary research” which led her “into many hitherto unexplored fields”.  She dug back deep for some of her recipes date back to the Colonial period.  These recipes include “George Washington Snowballs” and “Pigeons Transmogrified”.  It seems odd at first that 13 years of Prohibition could have obliterated the memory of recipes involving wine.  However, in her first chapter we learn that wine cookery recipes fell out of use much earlier and not solely because of Prohibition.

Harrison's flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Harrison’s flavoring extracts. Phila. c 1868. #2003680539. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wine cookery fell out of favor in the 19th century.  Ida Bailey Allen gives three main reasons: wines were imported thus expensive, little attention was given to native wines [perhaps in cooking], and the popularity of flavoring extracts with an alcohol base took hold.  These three reasons were echoed by Mary Meade, the pen name of Ruth Ellen Church, on January 6, 1935, in the Boston Herald.[11]  Whether the first two reasons bear out or not, I can attest that the discussion of using wine as an alternative to a flavor extract or essence persisted for a few more decades.

It was commonly felt that wine and spirits contributed to cooking in three manners: it accentuates the natural flavor of food, it adds flavor, and it improves texture by tenderizing meat.  For those concerned of the expense, Ida Bailey Allen explains that most of her recipes call for only a small amount of wine.  The “heel-tap”, or what is left in a bottle or a glass at the end of a meal, is typically a suitable volume.  Thus even those on a moderate income could afford to cook with wine and in doing so they would “open a new vista of flavors”.

[1] “Wine Flavored Sauce”. Date: Friday, December 1, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[2] “Fresh Beef Tongue In White Wine”. Date: Thursday, December 14, 1933   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 28
[3] Lyly, Penrose. “Sherry Comes Back to the Kitchen”. Date: Sunday, December 3, 1933   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 38
[4] Proctor, Cynthia. “Cooking Art Is Now Being Discovered”. Date: Sunday, January 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 45
[5] For the Next Sunday When Company Comes. Book Notes. Date: Saturday, July 21, 1934   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 11
[6] Wine and Food: THE WINE COOK BOOK. By the Browns, Cora, Rose and Bob. 462 pp. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $2.50. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 July 1934: BR10.
[7] “Here Are Some New Recipes To Make Tasty Desserts”. Date: Sunday, December 9, 1934   Paper: Springfield Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts)   Page: 48
[8] “Cooking With Wine and Spirits”. Date: Wednesday, October 10, 1934   Paper: Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)   Page: 14
[9] Friendly, Jane. “Famous Cook Book Big Aid To Housewife”. Date: Thursday, November 1, 1934   Paper: San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California)   Page: 20
[10] Yea, There’s Need for a Book, When the Man Is the Cook!: A Batch of the Best Are Selected for the Bachelors. Here’s How to Escape the Ills of Eating Delicatessen. The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 18 Nov 1934: B7.
[11] Meade, Mary. “Sparkling Wine Secret of Tang In Many Dishes”. Date: Sunday, January 6, 1935   Paper: Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts)   Page: 52

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