From the Archives: Peach Cobbler, For Men by Men: Or, When Reed Smoot Makes Dessert

By January 23, 2013

A friend of mine excitedly posted a link the other day on facebook with the accompanying note that “Warren G. Harding’s recipe for waffles is freely available on Google books.” The link took me to a 1922 cookbook entitled The Stag Cook Book, Written for Men By Men (or, alternately, as the cover to the right shows, with the slightly different subtitle A Man’s Cook Book for Men). Dedicated to “That Great Host of Bachelors and Benedicts Alike, who at one time or another tried to ‘cook something’; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil what, under more favorable circumstances, would have  proved a chef-d?vre,” it reminded me of Tona’s fascinating and fun post from last week on “etiquette and advice manual[s] updating 19th and early 20th century counsel for the 21st century man.” Here, I realized, was a very real example (if one in which the author/editor’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek) of the sort of literature tries to update for the 21st century.* And it didn’t disappoint. In addition to Warren G. Harding’s waffle recipe (in which we learn that “President Harding is a staunch upholder of the gravy school and likes his in the form of creamed chipped beef”—none of that sissy honey or maple syrup for the ringleader of the Ohio Gang), we’re also given access to Charlie Chaplin’s steak and kidney pie speciality and Houdini’s scalloped mushrooms and deviled eggs.  So what does any of this have to do with Mormon history, you ask? Well, among the other contributors to the volume was Mormon senator Reed Smoot, who provided his peach cobbler recipe. Without further ado, here it is in all of its sugary goodness:

One of my favorite dishes is peach cobbler. I am told that it originated in the south, but its fame has spread far beyond the limits of the Mason and Dixon line. It is made in this way:

Line a baking dish or pan, about three and one-half inches deep, with a rich pastry. There must be no break in the pastry. Then fill the dish to the brim with peaches—ripe, luscious ones, that have been pared and broken—not cut—in half. Sugar generously, and leave in about six or eight of the peach pits—they give a certain flavor that only peach pits may impart.

Cover the peaches with an unbroken upper crust of pastry; seal it tightly along the sides, so that none of the juices or aromas may escape. Bake in a slow oven until nearly brown—then sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, that will give a certain professional luster to the dish. After that finish the browning process.

A cobbler containing a quart of peaches should bake for about one hour.

Revealing of the era in which it was written, the following editor’s note is included at the bottom:

EDITOR’s NOTE:—Senator Smoot is not alone in his partiality toward peach cobbler. Back in the days before Volstead, famous cobblers were produced just as above with the addition of brandy, say a cup to a quart of peaches—but that, of course, was a long time ago.

It seems to me that this book is ripe (get it?) for analysis from food and gender historians alike. Since the book’s contributors include a number of prominent Republican politicians, maybe political historians will be interested, as well. But what are we, as historians of Mormonism, supposed to make of this? What, if anything, does Smoot’s inclusion signify? That Mormons make good dessert? Or perhaps something more?


*Unsurprisingly, The Stag Cook Book has been discussed on the Art of Manliness community forums on several occasions.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Accommodation Cultural History From the Archives Gender


  1. DO NOT BREAK THE PASTRY. Nor the peaches.

    I never heard of leaving IN the pits. Fascinating. I love how the Editor suggests adding brandy, without actually saying it. Smoot’s couldn’t therefore, be famous but still – I think I’ll try it. Though with a top crust not a crumble, it sounds a lot like pie.

    Comment by Tona H — January 23, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  2. Try Smoot’s original recipe, not the editor’s suggestion, of course.

    Comment by Tona H — January 23, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  3. Draft Edition Editors Note: “Senator Smoot is not alone in his partiality toward peaches, am I right fellows? We are grateful for the recipe shared by the esteemed Senator from Utah, as we have been well assured that among his manly Senatorial fellows he is the most expert in being filled “to the brim with peaches?ripe, luscious ones, that have been paired and broken.” Hurrah!

    Comment by N Cannon — January 23, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

  4. What does it mean to break the peaches?

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 23, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

  5. The civil man prefers not to elaborate on his innuendo.

    Comment by N Cannon — January 23, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  6. Breaking the peaches would mean that you break them apart by hand and don’t cut them. That takes a good quality, ripe peach, one that hasn’t seen the inside of a grocery store. It’s a curious instruction, since the outside of the peach would be touched by the paring knife, unless, of course, you blanch the peaches and slip the skins off by hand.

    I’m trying to remember the history of freestone peaches, but I can’t find anything with a quick look online. I think it had something to do with Luther Burbank, so about this era, but it’s likely the peaches in this recipe would be clingstone.

    The instruction about leaving some pits is because the nut in the inside of the peach pit has an almond flavor, but I believe it is slightly toxic if not processed by heat.

    Well, I’d like to try the recipe and report back, but I’d have to wait until the end of next July or the beginning of August, when the peach orchards around here open for business.

    Comment by Amy T — January 23, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  7. I’m still a little nervous about the peach pit arsenic thing, but perhaps it is harmless enough.,1623,155162-237192,00.html

    Comment by anonlds — January 23, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

  8. It seems to me that this book is ripe (get it?) for analysis…

    I see what you did there.

    Great post and fun find, Christopher. A few years ago, I never would have considered history of food. But with Kate Holbrook’s excellent work, this is all now super interesting.

    Comment by Ben P — January 23, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  9. What, if anything, does Smoot?s inclusion signify?

    Well, now we know why he was voted chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 1923.

    Comment by Nate R. — January 23, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

  10. Well, now we know why he was voted chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 1923.

    …or perhaps we know what finally got him seated in the senate in 1907.

    Comment by Ben P — January 23, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  11. Thanks, all.

    Tona, Amy T: If/when either of you do try out Smoot’s recipe, let us know how it turns out. And take pictures! We’ll add them to the post.

    Comment by Christopher — January 24, 2013 @ 4:02 am

  12. Part of my dissertation is about food and gender (and cookbooks), so I think this post is great (and timely!). I’m looking forward to adding this gem in a footnote, if not more.

    Comment by Saskia — January 24, 2013 @ 8:00 am

  13. Just ran across a housekeeping note in the Relief Society Magazine, March 1916, 158:

    “During peach season, collect the peach stones, dry and crack them, using the nuts for candy and flavoring of cakes,etc., instead of bitter almonds.”

    Reed Smoot would probably crack the stones with his bare hands, no?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 24, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

  14. Nice find. Thanks, Ardis!

    Comment by Christopher — January 25, 2013 @ 1:08 pm


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