Nell’s Bells, Booze, Homeade Vinegar, and Funky Whipped Cream

Despite this post’s seemingly risque title, it is actually the post wherein everybody gets to read some poetry and see what I’ve cooked up from inside my great grandmother Nell’s gorgeous heirloom cookbook, which I introduced you to in a previous post. The poem just happens to be about hell’s bells and the recipe happens to be for whipped cream, all on the same page. My ancestress was nothing if not creative in what she chose to place on the same page, no? 🙂

Before I show you the food I made, first let me show you this reference page that Nell put together from pages that I assume came from other cookbooks, because I was unable to find them in magazines or newspapers:

A few notes about these clippings that she saved:

  • As my other post mentions, the beginning of this book dates to around 1915-1916. Nell had married only a couple of years previous to that time (in 1913), so she was likely compiling this book out of a genuine need for a more effective and personalized woman’s-helper and reference/guide.
  • Note the reference to mutton–haha.
  • Note the 45-60 min time on bread–this is unique, too. I have old pioneer bread recipes that take this long to bake; the doughs are very wet and sponged. Modern-day bread recipes only require 20-30 minutes tops because they’re dry/full of air due to the addition of gluten flour (an overly processed component from inside the wheat kernel that causes the dough to balloon up and act more plasticky).
  • Love the cornstarch counsel; I’m *so* using that in the future
  • My best scratch-made custard pie recipe does follow the egg/milk ratio herein, so whew, I passed that test (haha!)
  • And the gelatin advice you see here? It is going to save my bacon in a few posts when I’m forced to make a savory gelatin dish (gulp). Send me thoughts and prayers, folks, that’s all I can say–I don’t even OWN a jello mold, haha!

So here are the very first items that I whipped up from the recipes in my great-grandma Nell’s cookbook: funky whipped cream (with egg whites!) and tarragon vinegar.

(I am Mormon, so I won’t be mixing up the “1916 Cocktail,” and reviewing it for my readers obviously. I’m sure glad she clipped and saved this, however, because (a) it further helps me date this book, (b) it rounds out the toast mocking prohibition in my other post, and (c) it further endears me to Nell’s husband, who had a medicinal prescription for liquor during prohibition (hee hee!). Ah, what I wouldn’t give to see the look on their faces to know they have a very “dry” great-granddaughter, lol.

But speaking of demon spirits (giggle) before I show you the fruits of my culinary labors, first a look at the poem which Nell so cleverly scripted into her book as the literal foundation for her gin recipe–does this woman have a dry wit (pun intended!) in her book-crafting artistry, or what?

The bells of hell go ting a ling a ling

For you but not for me

For me the angels sing a ling a ling

They’ve got a crown for me!

Oh death, where is thy sting a ling a ling

Oh grave, thy victorie?

This song, which was written around 1911, didn’t become popular until around World War I, so Nell maybe have added it to her book later (maybe to fill a blank spot?), perhaps even after she served in World War I herself–she was in the Navy while her husband went to France with the Army. The song then was made popular by a 1966 film about the war:

Nell didn’t die until about a decade after this movie’s release, but I have to wonder if she would still be adding to her early housekeeping book so late in life as that? I’m inclined to think she was fashionable enough to have stumbled upon the song earlier in life and added it to her tome then, given her penchant for all the fashionable magazines, as I posted earlier.

This entry in the book—the song –is fun and poetically ironic for a woman clipping cocktail recipes, whose husband has a prescription for medicinal liquor. She demonstrates a deliciously irreverent wit both here and throughout her other pages as my subsequent posts will show! In fact, Nell is so naughty that I wanted it to buy the domain name “NellsBells” or even “NellsBelles” for this blog as a play on words for her “devil may care” attitude (since I have several ancestresses named Helen/Nell), but this name/brand was already taken by a women’s group in England, alas. Good on them, lol! 🙂

Anyway, now on to the actual mixing and tasting:

I mixed up Nell’s tarragon vinegar recipe, even though I *despise* tarragon.

To make tarragon vinegar fill a jar with one pint of tarragon leaves 1 pint of vinegar 3 peppercorns & 2 cloves

I followed great-grandma Nell’s handwritten instructions, even thogh the smell of the fresh Tarragon leaves made me gag as I chopped them (I assumed I needed to chop them. Instructions didn’t say to do this, but how else to release the flavor into the vinegar, right?).

Did I mention I’m not a fan of tarragon?

This is what it looked like after a couple of weeks. The herbs had soaked up the vinegar, the peppercorns and cloves settled to the bottom (they floated around a bit at first), and so I decided to give it a taste . . .

Half the tomatoes have the vinegar with the herbs strained out; the other half with the herbs included. Salt and fresh cracked pepper added.

Even though I am not a fan of tarragon, I really, really liked this! I am really glad that this recipe was such a keeper. Whew. Even the one with the tarragon chunks–I really really liked it and ate this entire plate. Yay! I think the vinegar tempered all the things that I don’t like about tarragon. Or pickled them at least, lol.

Now on to the last recipe on the page–the one that I was kind of oogey about eating–whipped cream with RAW eggs in it!

I made two bowls of whipped cream–one according to Nell’s recipe, and one according to my own recipe books (cream and powdered sugar only). Can you tell which one is Nell’s and which one was made according to my modern cookbook recipe?

Here are two closeups–

Again, one of these is Nell’s clipped recipe with egg whites and vanilla, and another is simply cream and powdered sugar. Can you tell which is which?

Here is one, it came out kind of silky–

And here is the other is more coarse in appearance–

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, the first photo, the smooth one, is Nell’s. I was shocked, but the addition of egg whites and vanilla made the whipped cream really silky smooth. It also gagged me out. I mean, RAW egg white in whipped cream? Blech. The whipped cream without it was lighter and airier, but as a result also less pretty, less smooth and not as silky.

As for the taste?

I hate to admit it but the one with raw egg whites tasted better. It had a custardy taste that was awesome. it filled me up faster, though. I couldn’t’ finish the ice-cream that had this whipped cream on it. Or maybe because the thought of raw eggs was gagging me out? Hm, not sure which, but I just felt heavy and full so I stopped halfway through my Sunday. The regular whipped cream didn’t do this to me–I just plowed right through it. because really–I am extremely biased against raw egg whites. My mother-in-law used to make a cake with marshmallow frosting that had raw egg whites in the frosting, and then she would stick the cake on the counter and  LEAVE IT THERE  UNREFRIGERATED FOR DAYS  ON END AND THEN OFFER PIECES TO MY KIDS, GAH! I always just prayed to their guardian angels to keep them safe from salmonella because I had a marriage to preserve, and they miraculously survived every time, whew. So that’s probably why I subconsciously rejected this creamier, tastier whipped cream with the egg whites in it, haha.

(My kids devoured the remainder of both bowls with equal gusto. Whipped cream is whipped cream is whipped cream to a child, apparently. They don’t discriminate.)

Conclusion: Great-grandma Nell’s book has made me enjoy both tarragon *and* raw eggs in my food, something I never thought would happen. But the recipes to come are even more daunting, so we will see if her brilliant selectivity proves equally brilliant in upcoming posts! 🙂

~ Jenny

P.S. I was able to identify the source of the funky whipped cream recipe! It is a FUN old cookbook from 1914 (again, the date of this book is staying around the 1914-1917 range) that can be found online at the Michigan State University archive. I’ll put a link here below, but first I just have to show off the darling cover because I adore vintage cookbooks–will you just look at this darling thing?

And here is the page that I found the recipe on–notice how the type, text, and numbering next to it is identical to the clipping in my Nell’s book? It made me swoon, like I had found her fingerprints on the Internet–this is the very book that she leafed through, clipped out, and then passed down to ME!

and finally, here is a link to the entire book, for those of you who want to scroll through its entire contents–and I recommend you do because it is such a delight to read!


Unboxing My Ancestress’ Recipe Book

Today begins the big blog project that I alluded to in my previous post. Today I’m cracking open an old family treasure that was passed down to me–a cookbook with possible 1800’s roots which I will be exploring, page by page, in this and future weekly blog posts.

~ Treasure Box

I keep the book inside this box, which is in turn stored inside a padded, zippered bag with metal frame on the second floor of my home (so that any flooding won’t touch it), away from my kitchen (so that no kitchen fires could ever harm it).

This storage box is archival quality, acid-free, etc–I purchased it from an archive supply company for the specific purpose of protecting the book from further wear and tear. The way this book came to me is such a miraculous story (I’ll share it in an upcoming blog post) that I could never bear to lose it–I must keep it safe.

The book, inside, is spellbinding, is it not? That was the inspiration for my blog name, NellBound–a play on words because I am both bound to the ancestress who kept this book (Helen, aka “Nell”), I am spellbound *by* the book, and I am bound to her by both blood, and as DNA tests uncovered some of my ancestresses have been removed from my biological family tree, but research in documents uncovered that where there is no biological connection, we remain bound by ties of love, nurturing, and legal definitions of family that transcend biology.

~ The Book

Note the homemade cloth tabs for categories; aren’t they precious?

So this book has become a very powerful symbol in my life–I will be blogging about it weekly, page by page, lifting its secrets, researching them, and sharing them with you.

See the numbers on the binding? Being a professional genealogist, I had to research it (I am still researching the cover, which I have not yet shown you–stay tuned for a future blog post about it!).

Here is the patent design I uncovered in relation to the patent number:

The date on this patent says 1892. The ancestor to whom this book is purported to have belonged was born in 1893. This book could certainly been in production for many years after 1892, however–and it could also have been a gift placed in her girlhood trousseau by her mother. Or, the book could have been handed down from an older female relative. The best way to find out is to research its contents on the inside. Which you get to watch me do now:

By researching each individual clipping, I got a better idea of the timeline for what magazines my ancestress was reading and when she was putting this book together.

~ The Toast

First, the “Prohibition Toast”

Prohibition was the law between 1920 and 1933 in the United States. I got a big kick out of this clipping because, after my own dad died of colon cancer (when I was twenty) we found a file folder full of humorous newspaper clippings and jokes that he had collected over the years. Apparently his funny bone runs is an inherited trait.

But knowing the year span wasn’t enough for this genealogist–I really wanted to know if this had been clipped from any local papers. I searched for these words and didn’t find them in any of California’s papers (where Nell is from), but I did find it in a magazine I had never heard of before!

Here is a copy of the clipping where I found it, at the end of an article in the Green Book Magazine, volume 15, dated April 1916, page 596:

The issue where I found my ancestor’s clipping

The Green Book Magazine was a periodical issued monthly and which featured articles, opinion pieces, and fiction, as well as cartoonish caricature drawings and lifelike portrait sketches of the who’s who in the theater scene, later including photographs, once cameras entered the scene.

The mystery here is: if prohibition didn’t start until 1920, why were they printing a prohibition prayer in a 1916 magazine? Did even magazine writers see the forest for the trees by as early as 1916? Was prohibition already such a buzzword even four years before the law passed that they were able to laugh about it, to even draft humorous brindisi about their upcoming loss of beverage rights? If so, those thirteen years in which prohibition was actually a law must have been very, very long for drinkers.

~ The Budget Life Clipping

Next I found an quirky clipping that I knew I would not find in any California newspapers nor in any magazines for obvious reasons–it was apparent that it had come from some sort of cookbook:

This clipping, like the prohibition joke, serves no utilitarian purpose in the book, but really clues me in to the personality of my ancestress. When she sees her objective typed up nice and neat in another publication, she grabs it and makes it hers for the taking (and pasting), and isn’t afraid to paste it alongside bawdy temperance jokes.

And, oh yeah, a Kewpie cook with an apron and a naked tushie:

How’s THAT for a vision board?

Dang, I love this woman already.

Anyway, back to the blurb above–

I found a copy of it, though not in the exact the exact same font, in a Savory Steamer Prize Recipe book, which accompanied the purchase of their metalware pots in the early 1900’s. The cookbook on the UNC Greensboro Special Collections web site is dated 1913, but it is, again a different version than mine in a different font (though the exact same wording as Nell’s clipping), so I can’t be sure of the date.

The cookbook itself is absolutely charming, and can be downloaded as a PDF from the UNC Greensboro site that I linked to above:

Researching one clipping helped me discover that my ancestor may have owned the pot pictured here

When I researched the pot and recipe book, I discovered ads in all sorts of magazines that told women if they ordered this pot, they’d get this cookbook with it, but also ads telling women to call and order a free copy of the book, too–

For example, this ad in a 1912 copy of Cosmopolitan tells readers they can write in and get a FREE recipe book:

Check out the top half of the ad, too–notice the little Dutch girl up in the corner?

My ancestress clipped a little Dutch girl and put her in the center of this page with a funny little quote at her feet:

The caption on this little clipping reads: “Vy should veak vimmen vork vhen mens iss so plenty?” (Translation: Why should we [weak?] women work when men are so plenty?)

I get couple of things from this clipping, combined with the Dutch girl, above. One, just how en vogue Dutch girls were around this time in early America (I’m sure you all have seen the Dutch girl branch kitchenware, foods etc). And two, yet another glimpse at Nell’s sense of humor. For a cookbook, this thing is giving me more giggles than I had expected. As I mentioned in my previous post, family history can be very therapeutic, and working with Nell’s book has been no exception! 🙂

By 1916, the company making the savory cookbook was no longer giving it away–they were giving away placecards instead and offering the recipe book with this blurb only upon purchase of their pan:


Nov. 1916 Good Housekeeping, Vol. 63, p. 206.

But based on what I know of human behavior and housewares purchasing as a homemaker and cookbook user myself, I would date the snippet in Nell’s cookbook closer to the 1916 Good Housekeeping ad and not the 1912 Cosmopolitan/1913 UNC Greensboro copy of the cookbook. Here’s why:

Because first of all, it doesn’t resemble the text of the UNC copy. And second, if she actually owned the pan (as she needed to in order to get the 1912 version), I don’t think she’d want to cut it up–at least, I wouldn’t. I typically try to keep around books that go with products I own. However. If I had received a free book in the mail for a product I didn’t own, sure why not–I wouldn’t mind hacking it to bits or repurposing it for something else.

~ The Joke I Don’t Get

Next up is a clipping that makes zero sense to me. I think it is supposed to be a joke?

Problem is, I don’t get the joke. Could be because I am Mormon and Mormons don’t drink tea. We can have herbal tea, but we don’t drink stuff with habit-forming stimulants, so I guess that’s why I don’t “get” the punchline? Anybody care to explain this to me? Is it an early 1900’s thing? A British thing? What is it?

Regardless, I found out that my ancestor clipped this from American Cookery magazine (again with the magazines! Here I thought I’d be finding these in newspapers. Huh. Did nobody read the newspapers? Maybe her husband did that).

Here’s a snapshot of the original context for this clipping:

American Cookery magazine, vol. 20 (Boston: Boston Cooking School, 1916), p. 648.

Check out the ad for a home study course in domestic science–love it!

By the way, this  clipping appears at the tail end of a mini-article on  the importance of not cooking breakfast cereal for longer than eight minutes.

The 1916 date aligns with the 1916 Good Housekeeping date I had picked for that Savory roaster cookbook blurb, too, which is a cool coincidence (I discovered these in different order than I am blogging about them).

But Nell’s choice to include this in her cookbook, again, speaks so much to her personality.

Given that I don’t get the joke, this aspect of her personality will be an enigma to me–for the time being. 🙂

~ Progressive Investigative Housewife

Now this last Clipping still makes me chuckle. When I first saw it, devoid of any context, well, let me tell you what ran through my mind . . .

I really liked the thought of my ancestress clipping and saving this–all this talk of being an investigative, progressive homemaker really resonated with me, because I come from a long line of really progressive, liberated women. My paternal grandmother, for example, was college educated and so committed to social justice that the family joke I heard growing up was that she referred to chigger insects as “chegroes” so as to never even come close to the “n” word in her lexicon. My maternal grandmother was also a college educated teacher with an incredibly open mind and heart. My goal is to pass their legacy on through the future branches of our family tree via my children.

However, while I pictured her investigating matters of the heart or finances and being politically progressive, my research into the context of this clipping turned up something laughably different–

                      Good Housekeeping Magazine, Vol 61, no. 1, July 1915, p. 832.

Turns out, this article is all about seasonal eating for maximum body fuel/nutrition. The progressive/investigative housewifery referred to here was actually a reference to investigative sniffing out of the proper foods/fuels for her household, and the progressive use of proper foods at the right time of year, no matter what the Joneses are eating. Huh.

Same general time period as the other clippings

But still–

The fact that my ancestress was herself a progressive woman (she had only one child in an era of large families and drafted herself into the military during WWI as a married woman, separating herself from her husband!), gives me a bit of license to wonder if maybe she liked this blurb a bit better when divorced from its context.

~ Other Embellishments

The remaining pieces on this page are embellishments; fun little statements that again speak to Nell’s personality. I think of them as a hodgepodge–her combination vision-board blurbs, mission-statement mantras, and humorous quips. They are what make this book such a delight to peruse:




Oh, and apparently the phone number of a friend that she jotted down one day:

Kind of hard to see because I’m shooting this all with my iPhone FIVE. One of these days I’ll work my way up to a phone from this decade, lol!

I can’t wait to explore the next pages with you all as we become better acquainted with my amazing ancestress and her incredible personality via the clippings in her book.



© Jenny Tonks, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Resources for Researching Female Ancestors

There are a few guides out there for female ancestor-specific genealogy research, because so many of the records in America’s repositories detailed transactions centered on men. My top picks to get you started would be these three:

(click images to view full entries for each title on Amazon)

 The last title, I’d recommend it more for advanced researchers who are working in courthouse records, because novice researchers working in online records might not understand how to apply what is in this book; it doesn’t teach genealogy research strategies, just early American legal codes/practices that help put court records into better context for expert researchers, thereby deepening understanding and acting as a helpful reference during the research and analysis processes.


PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

©Jenny Tonks, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.