Betty Talmadge was the wife of a U.S. Senator from Georgia, and a bigger-than-life socialite and hostess in Washington D.C. back in the 1960s-1970s. Invitations to her bridge games were much sought-after, but her dinner parties were the stuff of even more renown.
Betty specialized in traditional Southern fare, emblematic dishes such as fried grits, braised quail, Brunswick stew and cucumber mousse among them. But it was with her pork dishes that she attained her true culinary glory. There was an element of the brash entrepreneur about Betty -- she even started a multi-million dollar ham curing business on the side while her husband, Democrat Herman Talmadge, ran the family political operations.
It must have been a fairly contentious relationship because Betty apparently learned that Sen. Talmadge was divorcing her while watching the television news.
His disclosure did not go unanswered. Not long thereafter, Betty testified against her ex-husband before the Senate Ethics Committee, revealing that bundles of $100 bills had been stashed in an overcoat at their home, money The Washington Post later reported as unreported campaign donations and reimbursements for nonexistent office expenses. The full Senate censured him, and Talmadge lost re-election to a fifth term.
Betty may not have pondered overly long before coming out with the name of her first cookbook: "How To Cook a Pig (and Other Back-to-the-Farm Recipes)."
After the cookbook was published, a newspaper reporter asked Mrs. Talmadge how she had mustered the nerve to slaughter her first pig.
"Real easy, honey," she said. "I just thought, 'You little male chauvinist, you,' and I went to it."
Here is an excerpt of one of her more exotic (i.e. probably foreign to most readers) pork recipes:
PICKLED PIGS' FEET
To pickle, place clean, chilled feet in brine for 15 days to 3 weeks. Make the brine by dissolving 1 pound salt, 1/4 pound sugar, and 1/4 ounce saltpeter in 9 cups of water. Weight the feet to keep them from floating above the solution. Keep pork cold (36-to-40 degrees Farenheit) throughout the pickling period.
To cook, simmer cured feet slowly until they are tender. Then chill them and pack them in cold, moderately strong vinegar, to which can be added spices such as bay leaves or all-spice. Use the feet at once, or keep them in the vinegar for about 3 weeks.
Betty Talmadge's cookbook, "How to Cook A Pig and Other Back-to-the-Farm Recipes" can still be purchased on Amazon.