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Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef

Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef

by Rufus Estes

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"Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef" includes nearly 600 mouth-watering recipes: chicken gumbo, chestnut stuffing with truffles, cherry dumplings, southern style waffles, baked milk (an early form of custard), parsnip fritters, and scores of other dishes from haute cuisine to family-style meals. Estes had worked for


"Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef" includes nearly 600 mouth-watering recipes: chicken gumbo, chestnut stuffing with truffles, cherry dumplings, southern style waffles, baked milk (an early form of custard), parsnip fritters, and scores of other dishes from haute cuisine to family-style meals. Estes had worked for years as a chef in deluxe private railroad cars, where he honed his culinary skills preparing lavish meals for industry magnates and even American presidents. Estes ran a more stationary kitchen as a caterer to executives with the U.S. Steel Corporation, the first billion-dollar corporation in the world, by the time his cookbook appeared. His cookbook doesn't skimp on the lard or fats, and also includes an introduction with a brief sketch covering Este's Southern childhood and early years as a railway attendant. The recipes in "Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef" are brief, don't always list proportions, and are tend to features recipes the way Grandma used to have them-with a pinch of this, a spoonful of that, and much of the detail memorized memory! Nonetheless, with its wide variety of recipe ideas and unique ethnic flavor, "Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat: The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef" is of special value to anyone interested in the African-American experience.

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Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat

The First Cookbook by an African-American Chef

By Rufus Estes

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14525-9



I was born in Murray County, Tennessee, in 1857, a slave. I was given the name of my master, D. J. Estes, who owned my mother's family, consisting of seven boys and two girls, I being the youngest of the family.

After the war broke out all the male slaves in the neighborhood for miles around ran off and joined the "Yankees." This left us little folks to bear the burdens. At the age of five I had to carry water from the spring about a quarter of a mile from the house, drive the cows to and from the pastures, mind the calves, gather chips, etc.

In 1867 my mother moved to Nashville, Tennessee, my grandmother's home, where I attended one term of school. Two of my brothers were lost in the war, a fact that wrecked my mother's health somewhat and I thought I could be of better service to her and prolong her life by getting work. When summer came I got work milking cows for some neighbors, for which I got two dollars a month. I also carried hot dinners for the laborers in the fields, for which each one paid me twenty-five cents per month. All of this, of course, went to my mother. I worked at different places until I was sixteen years old, but long before that time I was taking care of my mother.

At the age of sixteen I was employed in Nashville by a restaurant-keeper named Hemphill. I worked there until I was twenty-one years of age. In 1881 I came to Chicago and got a position at 77 Clark Street, where I remained for two years at a salary of ten dollars a week.

In 1883 I entered the Pullman service, my first superintendent being J. P. Mehen. I remained in their service until 1897. During the time I was in their service some of the most prominent people in the world traveled in the car assigned to me, as I was selected to handle all special parties. Among the distinguished people who traveled in my care were Stanley, the African explorer; President Cleveland; President Harrison; Adelina Patti, the noted singer of the world at that time; Booth and Barrett, Modjeski and Paderewski. I also had charge of the car for Princess Eulalie of Spain, when she was the guest of Chicago during the World's Fair.

In 1894 I set sail from Vancouver on the Empress of China with Mr. and Mrs. Nathan A. Baldwin for Japan, visiting the Cherry Blossom Festival at Tokyo.

In 1897 Mr. Arthur Stillwell, at that time president of the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gould Railroad, gave me charge of his magnificent $20,000 private car. I remained with him seventeen months when the road went into the hands of receivers, and the car was sold to John W. Gates syndicate. However, I had charge of the car under the new management until 1907, since which time I have been employed as chef of the subsidiary companies of the United States Steel Corporation in Chicago.


It is always necessary to keep your kitchen in the best condition.

Breakfast—If a percolator is used it should first be put into operation. If the breakfast consists of grapefruit, cereals, etc., your cereal should be the next article prepared. If there is no diningroom maid, you can then put your diningroom in order. If hot bread is to be served (including cakes) that is the next thing to be prepared. Your gas range is of course lighted, and your oven heated. Perhaps you have for breakfast poached eggs on toast, Deerfoot sausage or boiled ham. One of the above, with your other dishes, is enough for a person employed indoors.

When your breakfast gong is sounded put your biscuits, eggs, bread, etc., in the oven so that they may be ready to serve when the family have eaten their grapefruit and cereal.

Luncheon—This is the easiest meal of the three to prepare. Yesterday's dinner perhaps consisted of roast turkey, beef or lamb, and there is some meat leftover; then pick out one of my receipts calling for minced or creamed meats; baked or stuffed potatoes are always nice, or there may be cold potatoes leftover that can be mashed, made into cakes and fried.

Dinner—For a roast beef dinner serve vegetable soup as the first course, with a relish of vegetables in season and horseradish or chow-chow pickle, unless you serve salad.

If quail or ducks are to be served for dinner, an old Indian dish, wild rice, is very desirable. Prepare this rice as follows:

Place in a double boiler a cupful of milk or cream to each cupful of rice and add salt and pepper to taste. It requires a little longer to cook than the ordinary rice, but must not be stirred. If it becomes dry add a little milk from time to time.

Do not serve dishes at the same meal that conflict. For instance, if you have sliced tomatoes, do not serve tomato soup. If, however, you have potato soup, it would not be out of place to serve potatoes with your dinner.

Fish should never be served without a salad of some kind.

The above are merely suggestions that have been of material assistance to me.


Four teaspoonfuls of a liquid equal 1 tablespoonful.

Four tablespoonfuls of a liquid equal 1/2 gill or 1/4 cup.

One-half cup equals 1 gill.

Two gills equal 1 cup.

Two cups equal 1 pint.

Two pints (4 cups) equal 1 quart.

Four cups of flour equal 1 pound or 1 quart.

Two cups of butter, solid, equal 1 pound.

One half cup of butter, solid, equals 1/4 pound 4 ounces.

Two cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound.

Two and one half cups of powdered sugar equal 1 pound.

One pint of milk or water equals 1 pound.

One pint of chopped meat equals 1 pound.

Ten eggs, shelled, equal 1 pound.

Eight eggs with shells equal 1 pound.

Two tablespoonfuls of butter equal 1 ounce.

Two tablespoonfuls of granulated sugar equal 1 ounce.

Four tablespoonfuls of flour equal 1 ounce.

Four tablespoonfuls of coffee equal 1 ounce.

One tablespoonful of liquid equals 1/2 ounce.

Four tablespoonfuls of butter equal 2 ounces or 1/4 cup.

All measurements are level unless otherwise stated in the recipe.


ASPARAGUS SOUP—Take three pounds of knuckle of veal and put it to boil in a gallon of water with a couple of bunches of asparagus, boil for three hours, strain, and return the juice to the pot. Add another bunch of asparagus, chopped fine, and boil for twenty minutes, mix a tablespoonful of flour in a cup of milk and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper, let it come to a boil, and serve at once.

BEAN SOUP—One-half pound or one cup is sufficient for one quart of soup. Soups can be made which use milk or cream as basis. Any kind of green vegetable can be used with them, as creamed celery or creamed cauliflower. The vegetable is cooked and part milk and part water or part milk and part cream are used.

BISQUE OF CLAMS—Place a knuckle of veal, weighing about a pound and one-half, into a soup kettle, with a quart of water, one small onion, a sprig of parsley, a bay leaf, and the liquor drained from the clams, and simmer gradually for an hour and a half, skimming from time to time; strain the soup and again place it in the kettle; rub a couple of tablespoonfuls of butter with an equal amount of flour together and add it to the soup when it is boiling, stirring until again boiling; chop up twenty-five clams very fine, then place them in the soup, season and boil for about five minutes, then add a pint of milk or cream, and remove from the fire immediately, and serve.

BISQUE OF LOBSTER—Remove the meat of the lobster from its shell and cut the tender pieces into quarter-inch dice; put the ends of the claw-meat and any tough portions in a saucepan with the bones of the body and a little cold water and boil for twenty minutes, adding a little water from time to time as may be necessary; put the coral to dry in a moderate oven, and mix a little flour with some cold milk, and stir the milk, which should be boiling, stirring over the fire for ten minutes, then strain the water from the bones and other parts, mix it with milk, add a little butter, salt, pepper and cayenne to taste, and rub the dry coral through a fine-haired sieve, putting enough into the soup having it a bright pink color. Place the grease fat and lobster dice in a soup tureen, strain the boiling soup over them, and serve at once.

BISQUE OF OYSTERS—Place about thirty medium-sized oysters in a saucepan together with their own juice and poach them over a hot fire, after which drain well; then fry a shallot colorless in some butter, together with an onion, sprinkle over them a little curry and add some of the oyster juice, seasoning with salt and red pepper. Pound the oysters to a good firm paste, moistening them with a little of their juice, and strain through fine tammy cloth. Warm them over the fire, but do not let them boil; add a small quantity of thickening of potato flour mixed with a little water. When about to serve incorporate some cream and fine butter, garnishing with some chopped oysters and mushrooms, mixed with bread crumbs and herbs. Add a little seasoning of salt, pepper and nutmeg, some raw egg yolks, and roll this mixture into ball-shape pieces, place them on a well-buttered baking sheet in a slack oven and poach them, then serve.

BLACK BEAN SOUP—Wash one pint of black beans, cover with one quart of cold water and let soak overnight. In the morning pour off the water and pour over three pints of cold water. Cook, covered, until tender, four or five hours, add one tablespoonful of salt the last hour, rub through a strainer, add the strained beans to the water in which they were boiled, return to the soup kettle. Melt one tablespoonful of flour, stir this into the hot soup, let boil, stirring constantly; add a little pepper, slice thinly one lemon, put all the slices into the tureen and pour the soup over. Serve very hot.

CHESTNUT SOUP—Peel and blanch the chestnuts, boil them in salted water until quite soft, pas through a sieve, add more water if too thick, and a spoonful of butter or several of sweet cream. Season to taste and serve with small squares of bread fried crisp in butter or olive oil.

CHICKEN GUMBO, CREOLE STYLE—For about twelve or fifteen, one young hen chicken, half pound ham, quart fresh okra, three large tomatoes, two onions, one kernel garlic, one small red pepper, two tablespoons flour, three quarts boiling water, half pound butter, one bay leaf, pinch salt and cayenne pepper. To mix, mince your ham, put in the bottom of an iron kettle if preferred with the above ingredients except the chicken. Clean and cut your chicken up and put in separate saucepan with about a quart or more of water and teaspoonful of salt; set to the side of the fire for about an hour; skim when necessary. When the chicken is thoroughly done strip the meat from the bone and mix both together; just before serving add a quart of shrimps.

CREAM OF CELERY SOUP—Chop fine one head of celery and put on to cook in one pint of water. Boil until tender, add one pint of milk, thicken with a spoonful of butter, season to taste, and strain. Then add one cupful of whipped cream and serve at once.

EGG SOUP—Beat three eggs until light, then add one-half cupful of thick sweet cream and one cupful of milk, pour over this two quarts of boiling water, set on the fire until it comes to a boil, season to taste, then pour over broken bread in the tureen and serve.

GREEN PEA SOUP—Put one quart of green peas into two cups of boiling water, add a saltspoon of salt, and cook until tender. Rub peas and liquor through a puree strainer, add two cups of boiling water, and set back where the pulp will keep hot. Heat two cups of milk, add a teaspoon of flour rubbed into a rounding tablespoon of butter, season with salt, pepper, and a level teaspoon of sugar. Add to the hot vegetable pulp, heat to the boiling point, and serve.

GREEN TOMATO SOUP—Chop fine five green tomatoes and boil twenty minutes in water to cover. Then add one quart hot milk, to which a teaspoonful soda has been added, let come to a boil, take from the fire and add a quarter cupful butter rubbed into four crackers rolled fine, with salt and pepper to taste.

ONION SOUP—Cut three onions small, put one-quarter cup of butter in a kettle and toast one tablespoon flour till bright yellow in color; in it mix with this the onions, pour on as much broth as is wanted, and a little mace and let boil, then strain, allow to cook a little longer, add yolk of two eggs, and serve.

PEANUT SOUP—Made like a dry pea soup. Soak a pint and one-half nut meats overnight in two quarts of water. In the morning add three quarts of bay leaf, stalk of celery, blade of mace and one slice of onion. Boil slowly for four or five hours, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Rub through a sieve and return to the fire, when heated through again add one cupful of cream. Serve hot with croutons.

SAGO SOUP—Wash one-half cup sago in warm water, add desired amount of boiling broth (meat or chicken), a little mace and cook until the sago is soft, and serve.

SALMON SOUP—Take the skin and bones from canned salmon and drain off the oil. Chop fine enough of the fish to measure two-thirds of a cup. Cook a thick slice of onion in a quart of milk twenty minutes in a double boiler. Thicken with one-quarter cup of flour rubbed smooth with one rounding tablespoonful of butter. Cook ten minutes, take out the onion, add a saltspoon of pepper, one level teaspoon of salt and the salmon. Rub all through a fine strainer, and serve hot. The amount of salmon may be varied according to taste.

SORREL SOUP—Wash thoroughly a pint of sorrel leaves and put in a saucepan with two tablespoonfuls of butter, four or five of the large outside leaves, a sliced onion, and a few small sprigs of parsley. Toss over the fire for a few minutes, then sift into the pan two tablespoonfuls of flour and stir until blended with the butter remaining. Transfer to the soup kettle and pour in gradually stirring all the time, three quarts of boiling water. Cook gently for fifteen or twenty minutes, then add a cupful of mashed potato and one of hot milk. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Have in the soup tureen some croutons of bread toasted brown, pour the hot soup over them and serve. The sorrel should be cut in fine pieces before cooking. This is one of the delicacies of the early spring, its slightly acid flavor making it particularly appetizing.

TOMATO SOUP—Put one quart can of tomatoes, two cups of water, one-half level tablespoon of sugar, one level teaspoon of salt, four whole cloves, and four peppercorns together in a saucepan and simmer twenty minutes. Fry a rounding tablespoon of chopped onion and half as much minced parsley in a rounding tablespoon of butter until yellow; add two level tablespoons of cornstarch. Stir until smooth, then turn into the boiling soup and simmer ten minutes. Add more salt and pepper and strain.

TOMATO SOUP—Into a saucepan put one quart can of tomatoes and two cups of broth from soup bones. To make this cover the bones and meat with cold water and simmer slowly for several hours. Add to tomato and stock a bit of bay leaf one stalk celery cut in pieces, six peppercorns, a level teaspoon of salt and a rounding teaspoon of sugar. Cook slowly until tomato is soft. Meanwhile put a rounding tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan and when melted and hot turn in a medium-sized onion cut fine. When this has cooked slowly until yellow, but not browned, add enough of the tomato to dilute it, then turn all back into the larger saucepan. Mix and press through a strainer to take out the seeds and lots of vegetables, reheat, and serve with small croutons.

TOMATO SOUP, CORNED BEEF STOCK—Put one quart can tomatoes on to boil, add six peppercorns, one-half inch blade of mace and a bit of bay leaf the same size. Fry one sliced onion in one level tablespoonful butter or beef fat until slightly colored, add this to the tomato, and simmer until the tomato is quite soft, and the liquor reduced one-half. Stir in one-fourth teaspoon of soda, and when it stops foaming turn into a puree strainer and rub the pulp through. Put the strained tomato on to boil again and add an equal amount of corned beef liquor or enough to make three pints in all.

Melt one heaped tablespoon butter in a smooth saucepan, add one heaped tablespoon cornstarch, and gradually add part of the boiling soup. Stir as it thickens, and when smooth stir this into the remainder of the soup. Add one teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon paprika. Reserve one pint of this soup to use with spaghetti. Serve buttered and browned crackers with the soup.

VEGETABLE BROTH—Take turnips, carrots, potatoes, beets, celery, all, or two or three, and chop real fine. Then mix with them an equal amount of cold water, put in a kettle, just bring to a boil, not allowing it to boil for about three or four hours, and then drain off the water. The flavor will be gone from the vegetables and will be in the broth.

VEGETABLE SOUP—Take one-half a turnip, two carrots, three potatoes, three onions and a little cabbage. Run through a meat chopper with coarse cutter and put to cook in cold water. Cook about three hours. If you wish you can put a little bit of cooking oil in. When cooked add one quart of tomatoes. This will need about six quarts of water.

The most nutritious soups are made from peas and beans.


Excerpted from Rufus Estes' Good Things to Eat by Rufus Estes. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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