Long before there was Emeril or Paula Deen, there was Henrietta Dull, the original doyenne of Southern cooking. Henrietta (1863-1964) bridged two centuries and brought the region's cuisine to the rest of the nation through her masterpiece cookbook Southern Cooking that can still be found in print after nearly a century, her cooking schools that attracted many thousands of devotees, and her newspaper columns. Henrietta, aka Mrs. S.R. Dull, which she used as her pen name, was sought out by celebrities and politicians alike in her heyday. While she didn't invent Southern cuisine, she certainly helped codify it for the masses -- not unlike what Moses did for the Ten Commandments, in our opinion.
Here is a Spring dinner menu of Southern cuisine, as conceived and executed by the inestimable Henrietta:
CREAM OF CELERY SOUP
2 cups celery
1 quart cold water
3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and dice celery and boil very tender in the water; there should be at least two cups of water when finished. Rub the celery through a strainer and return to the water. Add the sale and pepper. Mix the flour and butter into a paste and add to the milk, which should be warmed. Mix with the celery mixture; boil gently for 10 minutes and serve.
PLAIN SQUASH SOUFFLE
2 cups cooked and mashed squash
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the bacon drippings in hot milk; pour over bread crumbs, mix well, add to squash. Add seasoning, beat eggs all together and add to mixture. Pour into a baking dish and bake 20 to 30 minutes in oven preheated to 375 degrees. Serve from the dish The top may be covered with extra buttered crumbs.
Select a thick, good cut of round. Cut into sections suitable to serve. Pound with a meat hammer until well beaten. Dip info flour, covering both sides well. Into a skillet put a small amount of cooking oil; have very hot, put in the pieces of steak and sear both sides well.
Cover with boiling water; cover pan, lower the heat and simmer one hour. When half done salt and pepper to taste. When finished cooking there should be plenty of gravy. If the water boils away more may be added. The cooking must be slow if you wish the meat tender. Onions may be added if liked. Add them sliced when the water is put in and cook until tender. There will be sufficient flour on steak to thicken the gravy.
GEORGIA DATE CAKE
3 cups finely chopped dates
2 cups pecan pieces chopped medium
3 cups flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
3 teaspoons baking powder
Sift salt, spices and baking powder into flour. Beat eggs together until light, add sugar, then flour and water, beat until smooth. With a little extra flour dredge dates and nuts; mix into batter and bake in moderate oven for 2 hours at 300 degrees. There is no butter or shortening in this cake. The batter should be quite stiff.
A 2017 tribute to Henrietta is being re-published in the "Notions from Home" blog on this website coincident with publication of this recipe page. The latest edition of Southern Cooking by Mrs. S.R. Dull may be purchased from the University of Georgia Press http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/southern_cooking/
SouthernAirs developed some of these recipes, aiming as always for authenticity. Others are on loan from cited friends and relatives, or from authoritative sources with permission.