Category Archives: cooking

Discovering Fred Harvey

The time has long since passed for me to expect surprises beneath the Christmas tree.  Not only do I select most of my presents, I wrap them too.  Which, in all honesty, is absolutely fine with me.  But this year there were two unexpected gifts bearing tags addressed to me.  What wonders would they behold?  The first, an insert for my Nalgene bottle, was the practical gift.   Apparently I missed the lesson in preschool about not dribbling down the front of yourself when drinking.  It’s an embarrassing habit and one which has long inhibited my quest for hydration.  This insert makes it more likely I’ll ingest the water, rather than wear it.  The second gift was, of course, a book.

During our cross-country adventure I discovered a fascinating piece of history – Harvey Houses.   Fred Harvey revolutionized the hospitality industry during the late 1800’s by developing restaurants and lodging along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.  Fred Harvey was a person, but also a company and a brand.   He brought refinement and quality to the West – changing the face of travel and setting standards that are still emulated to this day in customer service.  One particular aspect of his methodology really captured my attention.  Fred Harvey needed a work force that would uphold his strict requirements for quality service, consistency, and respectability.  His answer was to hire responsible, unmarried women.  Harvey found himself a reliable staff, and the Harvey Girls had respectable jobs and financial independence.  This mutually beneficial arrangement was quite progressive – and successful.  How had this morsel of American Women’s History eluded me for so long?

To remedy the gap in my knowledge I purchased several books on our trip and read with enthusiasm.  But it is my Christmas present, The Harvey House Cookbook, that is the crowning jewel.  The Cookbook provides an overview history of Fred Harvey, Harvey Girls, and Harvey Houses.  It also provides recipes from restaurants along the Santa Fe line.  Although my children aren’t clamoring for me to make “Jellied Chicken” anytime soon, I delighted in reading about the delicacies offered more than a century ago to weary West-bound travelers.

Several Harvey Houses, under different management, are still in operation.  Stay on the edge of the Grand Canyon at El Tovar Hotel and enjoy a meal at Bright Angel Restaurant (we did) where you’ll find several authentic historic Harvey House items still on the menu.  In Santa Fe, New Mexico you can stay at La Fonda and in Winslow, Arizona spend a night at La Posada.  Take an hour while traveling historic Route 66 to see the Painted Desert Inn for a glimpse into the glory days of Harvey Houses.  Barstow, California is home to the Casa Del Desierto, a former Harvey House converted into multi-use space including museums, offices, and event rooms.  If you can’t get away, but want to know more about this delightful piece of history check out some great books about Fred Harvey.  You may even want to try your hand at making “Albondigas Soup” or “Lobster Americaine”!

Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer – The fictionalized diary of young Kitty Evans an aspiring journalist who, due to unfair and unfortunate circumstances, has to find a job instead of going to college.  Follow Kitty as she journeys West finding adventure as a Harvey Girl during the 1920’s.  MR/YA -6/8

Appetite For America by Stephen Fried  – This comprehensive history of Fred Harvey the man, the company, and the brand is engaging and entertaining.  Reading like a novel, with clear benchmarks of well-researched historical documentation, it is a must for anyone interested in Harvey, the American West, and rail travel. Author Fried gives a presentation on the history of Fred Harvey at La Fonda which you can check out HERE.  Learn more about the later years of the Fred Harvey company in a Q&A session with Fried and Daggett Harvey Jr.  HERE.

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West by Lesley Poling-Kempes –  A history of the Harvey Girls combining oral history and well researched details.   This book acknowledges the long overlooked contributions of the women who, in search of respectable employment and independence, were influential in altering the fabric of life throughout the American Southwest.   For more about women who, against convention, braved the West read Poling-Kempes Ladies of the Canyon.

The Harvey House Cookbook by George H. Foster & Peter C. Weiglin – As stated above, a delightful overview of Fred Harvey the man and the company, as well as Harvey Girls, the changing landscape of the American West, and the rise and decline of rail travel in the U.S.   Plus many delicious and entertaining recipes sure to whet your appetite or possibly cause revulsion to your modern dining sensibilities (anything with the word aspic is nausea inducing for me).  A great complement to the Harvey history and a wonderful addition for any food historian!

Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer – Harvey House history told through remarkable photographs of the people and places that made up this groundbreaking brand.  A wonderful visual documentation of the history and diversity of the Harvey Houses across the Southwest. (Images of America series)

PBP note: Fred Harvey, at the turn of the 20th century, made another extremely progressive move hiring Mary Colter, a schoolteacher and untrained architect, to design and develop many of the Harvey House locations.  For nearly 50 years. she worked in a male dominated field as the chief architect and decorator for Fred Harvey.  Read more about her remarkable spirit, her building and design philosophy, and her legacy in Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth  by Virginia L. Grattan


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Filed under cooking, cross country, History, hotel, North America, United States

Embracing Baking

Weezy-Jean was home sick for two days this week.  After a dose of ibuprofen, two American Girl movies, and an epic Skip-Bo tournament, I relented and we spent an afternoon watching Food Network.  I’m the first to admit that I’m not a good cook, nor do I enjoy cooking.  I do, however, love baking.  There is something about measuring, mixing, and a warm oven that calms my spirit.  We watched TV hosts visit diners, make sandwiches, and create culinary masterpieces, and I was inspired to bake.  With no butter in the house (catastrophic!) I took to Pinterest in search of a delectable sweet treat requiring only what we had on hand.  Our valiant attempt – peanut butter honey coconut cookies- taste like paste.  Or what I imagine paste tastes like.  I didn’t want to waste calories trying paste, so I just had another cookie.

The other big news of the week is a huge storm hit the East coast, keeping millions housebound.  Where I live we scoff at the extreme panic that a little snow causes the Mid-Atlantic region.  However, if by some chance I were snowed in all weekend, you can bet I’d be doing two things – baking and reading.

For those stuck at home, regardless the reason, here are some perfect reads to inspire creative confections for bored bakers of all ages.

mousecookieIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie  by Laura Joffe Numeroff.  When you give mouse a cookie one thing leads to another.  Before you know it, an afternoon of adventure is behind you, and you are right back where you started.  This charming story is sure to be a favorite in any household!  A reading of this book isn’t complete without whipping up a batch of cookies.  Be sure to check out the other books in the If You Give A… series for culinary inspiration – from muffins & pancakes to cupcakes & donuts!  PB

mimiMimi’s Adventures in Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies by Alyssa Gangeri.  Join Mimi and her Nonni as they follow the perfect recipe to make chocolate chip cookies.  Enjoy the story/recipe book and make your own batch of cookies just like Mimi.  Gangeri, a professional pastry chef, has more baking fun in Mimi’s Adventures In Baking Gingerbread Men and Mimi’s Adventures in Baking Allergy Friendly TreatsPB

cocoCoco: My Delicious Life by Kyla May.  Coco loves baking cupcakes – and saving animals!  With her friends she sponsors a bake sale to save the snails.  Follow along in this easy reader – set as Coco’s diary and filled with graphic art illustrations – to discover how teamwork and friendship go a long way.  Part of the Lotus Lane series. ER-1/2

graceGrace by Mary Casanova.  Part of the American Girl book & doll series. (Grace is the 2015 Girl of the Year).  Grace’s loves to bake and she has big plans for a summer business with her best friends.   Putting her plans on hold seems a small sacrifice since her mother is taking her to Paris – to visit the city of lights and delectable delights! But, when the trip doesn’t go quite as planned, Grace needs to whip up a solution to save her Parisian holiday and her friendships.  Follow Grace as she cooks up more adventure in Grace Stirs it Up and Grace Makes It Great.  ER-2/3

blissBliss by Kathryn Littlewood.  Rosemary’s family runs the local bakery, and their recipes are magical – literally.  When her parents go away they leave Rose in charge to protect the family Cookery Book -but under no circumstances is she allowed to use it.  When mysterious “Aunt Lily” arrives the whole game changes.  One or two little recipes couldn’t hurt, could it?  Continue to follow the magical adventures of the Bliss family in A Dash of Magic and the conclusion to the trilogy, Bite-Sized Magic . MR-4/5

cupcake diariesKatie and the Cupcake Cure by Coco Simon.  The first book in The Cupcake Diaries series introduces readers to Katie, a new middle-schooler struggling to figure out just where she belongs.  When Katie’s best friend seemingly abandons her to be part of a “popular” club it seems as if Katie is doomed to misery and loneliness, until she realizes all she needs is the perfect cupcake to bring a group of new friends together.   Follow aspiring bakers, Katie, Emma, Alexis and Mia as they navigate middle-school and the kitchen together! MR-4

cupcake queenThe Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler.  When Penny’s parents separate she’s forced to relocate from New York City to a small town.  Trying to fit in and make new friends is tough, especially when the popular girl is out to get you.  It’s not all bad, though.  There are things Penny really likes about her new home of Hog’s Hollow, like working in her mother’s cupcake bakery, the couple good friends she’s met, and there is that cute boy who has definite potential.  But just as Penny finds her footing she’s faced with a decision that could change everything  – and ruin the life she’s built in Hog’s Hollow forever.  YA -12up

baking blindThe Art of Baking Blind: A Novel by Sarah Vaughan.  Back in the mid-1960’s Kathleen Eaden was the queen of American dessert baking.  Decades later five unique individuals, unlikely compatriots, are forced together in a competition meant to crown the next reigning monarch of the amateur baking world.  They’ve all arrived with something to prove, demons to battle, and a desire to create perfection in the kitchen.   The lessons they learn along the way aren’t just about how to create an ideal dessert, but about how to live your best ordinary life. MBS

cake therapistThe Cake Therapist by Judith Fetrig.  Renowned pastry chef Claire O’Neil is finally coming home.  With her life in shambles it seems only right to return and start her own bakery.  For Claire it isn’t just about the delicious desserts – she can actually taste feelings – and has an intimate knowledge of how to put this skill to work, providing people with exactly what they need to heal a broken heart, take a leap of faith, or celebrate a great joy.   Now at home she finds that there are hidden secrets longing to be shared, and perhaps this is the one thing she needs most to heal herself. MBS

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B is for….

There is something magical when you catch a whiff of the delightful scents wafting from the door of a bakery.  Whether at home in your local bake shop or discovering a local bakery on your travels, the sights and smells of fresh bread and handmade pastries are truly magical.  So grab a cupcake and take a bite out of one of the bakery books.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Rosemary Bliss has always known her family bakery was special.  They make the most delicious treats, but her mother also seems to be able to make things “happen” with some of her special recipes.  It all comes from the magical Bliss Cookery Booke filled with secret recipes and concoctions.   Cook up some fun with the Bliss kids in these delicious adventures. MR/3-6

blissBliss  by Kathryn Littlewood – When their parents go out of town Rosemary and her siblings are put in charge of the Bliss Cookery Booke.  Keeping the book locked up seems easy until mysterious “Aunt” Lily shows up.  Suddenly the Bliss kids want to experiment and show Lily what they can do in the  kitchen – one little recipe from the book couldn’t cause any trouble, right?  And even though Lily is rebellious and crazy and fun, Rosemary isn’t quite sure she should trust her.

blissdashofmagicA Dash of Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Littlewood – In this second book it is up to Rosemary to return the Bliss Cookery Book to it’s rightful place – by engaging in baking competition – against Aunt Lily – in Paris!


blissbitesizedmagieBite-Sized Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Lilttlewood – Rosemary’s past successes have made her famous, so much so that she’s been kidnapped by an international snack-cake mogul who wants to use her special recipes to take over the world!   The Bliss kids are ready to work together to stop this madman and save Rose and their family legacy.

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Filed under A to Z, cooking, magic, Middle Reader, mystery