Vegetable Soup: A Friendship Revealed by a Recipe

Nikki Yutuc

The Margaret Chase Smith Recipes Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maine. Members represent a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, folklore, anthropology, public policy, food science, and business. Senator Smith was a trailblazer, passionate about bringing people together through civil discourse, often over a home-cooked meal. She was a proud homemaker throughout her thirty-three years in office, and she maintained an extensive recipe collection, using recipes from her collection to entertain fellow policymakers in Washington and at home in Maine. The collaborative formed to support students and faculty interested in issues of food, recipes, politics, history, and their intersections.

This post is part of a series of student research projects exploring a recipe from Smith’s collection from an Honors tutorial taught by Dr. Rachel Snell in Spring 2019. Combined the students’ insights provide a new window into Sen. Smith’s private and public persona as well as the cultural, social, and scientific context of her lifetime. 

Margaret Chase Smith and Liz Hart at the Senator’s Skowhegan home c. 1980s. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

Margaret Chase Smith’s recipe collection includes a recipe for Vegetable Soup credited to “Liz Hart.” Research reveals the recipe contributor was accomplished sculptor and artist from Dallas, Texas, Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Hart. Her obituary credits Hart with the creation of statues designed for the Boy Scouts Headquarters, the rotunda of A. Webb Roberts University, and figures for Sea World Texas. Her most well-known piece is a bust of Margaret Chase Smith in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. Her recipe in Smith’s collection preserves their relationship. More than just artist and subject, Liz Hart and Margaret Chase Smith were good friends.

The two women exchanged letters throughout the time that they worked together. The letters, kept in the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, Maine, discuss the progress of the bust and details about their personal lives. Because Hart lived in Dallas, Texas, she was unable to see her subject regularly but managed to create a piece that truly captured the essence of Margaret Chase Smith. In a letter that Hart wrote to Smith, she said that “portrait sculptors throughout the ages have had different philosophies concerning their work. Mine lies somewhere in-between the Romans who pursued with fierce honesty the naturalistic notation of personal character, ‘warts and all’, and Michelangelo who observed, with respect to his idealized figure of Guiliano de Medici carved for the Medici Chapel in Florence, that likeness was unimportant in commemorating an individual, since a thousand years in the future, who would value the resemblance?” Her rendering of Smith captures her philosophy.  

Smith and the bust by sculptor Liz Hart. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

The bust has her signature curly hair and wrinkles that show her age at the time. It accurately resembles Margaret Chase Smith, but its position is the most powerful. Her bust looks upwards as if she is looking forward to the possibilities. She is a powerful woman, and the bust represents her well. Liz Hart was aware of Smith’s strong personality, and the bust needed to symbolize her achievements. Hart described the image of Smith that she wanted to create in a letter to Smith saying, “I have been trying to capture your personality as I see it, alert, brilliant, self-assured, determined, yet very, very feminine….. I have not, nor will I show every wrinkle, hair, etc.” Smith was aware of her appearance, and Hart did her best to create an image of Smith that pleased the subject. Smith was impressed by the sculpture because of its resemblance and Hart’s expertise.

A copy of the bust from the collections of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

During the presentation of the bust, Smith said, “The subject for a work of art is seldom pleased with what she sees, thus, my reluctance from the beginning to be the subject; but with the patience and expertise of Liz Hart, and her love and admiration for me, I did my best and was rewarded by what I believe to be a true likeness of me. Not a detail was missed; and after hearing so many oohs and aahs by friends and strangers and on close examination myself, I have come to believe that it is a true work of art.” Images of Smith standing next to her bust showcase Hart’s talent and attention to detail. Hart captured all of Smith’s prominent features and simultaneously replicated her determined personality. The original bust’s home in the Smithsonian, “is a testament to her importance. She inspired generations of women, especially in the mid-twentieth century when many women were expected to only serve in domestic roles, and her dedication to the public will forever be remembered through Liz Hart’s bronze bust of her” (Portraits of Women in the Western World).

Liz Hart’s recipe for vegetable soup in Margaret Chase Smith’s recipe collection.
Liz Hart’s recipe for vegetable soup continued.

The relationship between Hart and Smith was more than professional. The two had become good friends, and Hart gave Smith a recipe, Vegetable Soup, to keep in her collection. According to Angie Stockwell, a collection specialist at the Margaret Chase Smith Library, Senator Smith never made the recipe. Mrs. Stockwell speculates, “I suspect she might have had her housekeeper make it for her, as by the time Senator Smith met Liz, she would have been older and perhaps not too inclined to cook.” With many ingredients and an enormous yield, the recipe seems poorly suited to Smith’s lifestyle during her final years. However, for Liz Hart, as an artist with a family who worked from home, the long-simmering soup may have ideally suited her work and family’s needs. The recipe may have served as a reminder of a dear friend rather than practical instructions in Smith’s collection.

Nikki Yutuc is a fourth-year Finance and Management double-major and member of the Honors College at the University of Maine. 


  1. “Elizabeth Hart Sight and Sound Sculpture.” 20c Designhttp://20cdesign.com/product/elizabeth-hart-sight-and-sound-sculpture/
  2. “Elizabeth Hart Wall Sculpture – Entendons Nous.” At 1stdibswww.1stdibs.com/furniture/wall-decorations/contemporary-art/elizabeth-hart-wall-sculpture-entendons-nous/id-f_383654/.
  3. “Margaret Chase Smith.” Smithsonian Institutionwww.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.84.160?destination=sisearch%3Fedan_q%3Delizabeth%252Bhart&width=85%25&height=85%25&iframe=true.
  4. Halliday, Robin Rominger. “View Mary Hart’s Obituary on DallasNews.com and Share Memories.” Mary Hart Obituary – Dallas, TX | Dallas Morning Newshttps://obits.dallasnews.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?n=mary-elizabeth-hart-liz&pid=104222734.
  5. “Portraits of Women in the Western World.” 24, engl10524spring2017exhibitions.web.unc.edu/portraits-of-women-in-the-western-world/
  6. Stockwell, A. (2019). Email. Margaret Chase Smith Library

Exploring Class and Social Ties in Chocolate Crunch Cookies

Caitlin Hillery

The Margaret Chase Smith Recipes Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maine. Members represent a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, folklore, anthropology, public policy, food science, and business. Senator Smith was a trailblazer, passionate about bringing people together through civil discourse, often over a home-cooked meal. She was a proud homemaker throughout her thirty-three years in office, and she maintained an extensive recipe collection, using recipes from her collection to entertain fellow policymakers in Washington and at home in Maine. The collaborative formed to support students and faculty interested in issues of food, recipes, politics, history, and their intersections.

This post is part of a series of student research projects exploring a recipe from Smith’s collection from an Honors tutorial taught by Dr. Rachel A. Snell in Spring 2019. Combined the students’ insights provide a new window into Sen. Smith’s private and public persona as well as the cultural, social, and scientific context of her lifetime. 

“Chocolate Crunch Cookies” is the last recipe in the “Cookies” section of Margaret Chase Smith’s personal recipe box. Though entirely handwritten, it is absent from any sign of a contributor’s name or the date added. On the back of the recipe card is the first half of another handwritten recipe, this one for hermits—scratched-out, upside-down, but still legible. The contributor has added several personal comments after the customary instructions: “very good and something different,” she writes, and laments over the rising costs of semi-sweet chocolate—farmore preferable, she confides, to the cheaper but less satisfactory “sweet chocolate.” 

Smith’s personal recipe collection at the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library in Skowhegan, Maine. Photography by Rachel Snell.

After a first glance, this recipe clearly relies on staple ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, shortening, baking soda, vanilla. The most expensive ingredients are the nuts and the chocolate (and these, of course, are entirely up to the individual baker’s discretion). Easy-to-find ingredients, yes, but not universally affordable. Upon initial analysis of this recipe, its apparent similarity to a chocolate chip cookie was immediately noticeable, and the original Toll House cookie recipe seemed to be a rational jumping-off point for research. “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies,” as they originally appeared in the 1938 edition of Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes, are, in fact, almost identical to the “Chocolate Crunch Cookies” in Smith’scollection. Theonly differences between the two recipes lie in the type of fat, the amount of chocolate, and theoven temperature. While the Smith recipe providesfar more detailed descriptions for how tocombine the ingredients, the similarities in the type and quantity of ingredients speak volumes.[1]

Smith’s recipe for Chocolate Crunch Cookies. Courtesy of Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

The similarities between the two recipes suggests “Chocolate Crunch Cookies” made its way into Smith’s collection somewhere between 1938—when the pivotal edition of Ruth Wakefield’s cookbook was published—and 1940—when Nestlé began producing “chocolate morsels.” On March 20, 1939, Ruth Wakefield sold her aforementioned recipe to Nestlé for $1 and, reportedly, a lifetime supply of chocolate, immediately making “Chocolate Crunch Cookies” available to a much wider audience. Nestlé introduced “chocolate morsels” in 1940 for greater ease of making the cookies, though the contributor of the Smith recipe still specifies chopping a chocolate bar into pea-sized pieces—an indication that the “morsels” were, perhaps, a luxury item, too expensive, impractical, or even not yet invented at the date of contribution.[2]

Comparison of Smith’s Chocolate Crunch Cookie Recipe with Wakefield’s original recipe.

Expense, in particular, is a notable focus in the analysis of this recipe due to several factors that suggest the possibility of the contributor’s low socioeconomic status. She substitutes the butter in the original Toll House recipe for shortening, a less expensive and more shelf-stable fat; the scribbled-out recipe for hermits on the back of the cookie recipe suggests that she recycled recipe cards to avoid waste; much of her commentary surrounds the price of chocolate and her disappointment at not being able to afford to make this particular recipe anymore; and she cites substituting a cheaper chocolate, sweet rather than semi-sweet, in an endeavor to prepare the cookies nonetheless before dismissing that “it isn’t quite the same.”

Having grown up in a working-class family herself, living in Skowhegan and working her own job by the age of 12, Margaret Chase Smith probably cut a less intimidating figure to the women with whom she associated—indeed, itis even likely that women of lower economic status would have felt more comfortable sharing their recipes with her, even on previously used cards. The question still stands: who may have contributed this recipe to Smith’s collection? Assuming, for now, that the 1938-1940 hypothesis is correct for the submission of the recipe; it would make the most sense that Sen.Smith received this recipe from someone in the Congressional Club, the only women’s club in which she was active during those years. The scratched-out hermit recipe challenges this interpretation. Hermits are a uniquely regional food, containing northeastern/Canadian traditional elements such as raisins, molasses, and brown sugar. Would the same politically connected wife have submitted two such commonplace, simple recipes, on reused recipe cards, nonetheless?[3]

Photograph of Margaret Madeline Chase in 1927 while she was President of the Maine Business and Professional Women’s Club. Courtesy of Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

The other most likely possibility as to the recipe’s contributor is a member of either Maine’s Sorosis Club or Business and Professional Women’s Club (PBW), the two women’s organizations in which MCS was notably active throughout her life. Such an origin would explain the hints of regional tradition, the congenial tone observed in the commentary, the indications of a lower-class contributor, and—perhaps mostnotably—the shareable nature of both recipes. The BPW, in particular, had a “downtown clubhouse” that members who worked in the city would use as an area to eat lunch—a prime excuse to have quick, easily distributed treats on hand.[4]

Smith’s Chocolate Crunch Cookies, adapted and prepared by the author.

It’s not surprising that this recipe retained its spot in MCS’ recipe box; as her personal secretary Angie Stockwell recalled, the senator “always liked to have some sort of crunch cookie on hand.”  Her former housekeeper remembered how, on her weekly shopping trips, she was always instructed to buy Pepperidge Farm cookies, which, apparently, “disappeared somewhere!”  Did she ever make these cookies?  We may never know—but if she tried them even once, I’d bet that they remained a favorite.[5]

Caitlin Hillery is a third-year Food Science and Human Nutrition major with a concentration in Food Science and member of the Honors College at the University of Maine.


[1]Carolyn Wyman, The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book: Scrumptious Recipes & Fabled History From Toll House to Cookie Cake Pie(New York: Countryman Press, 2013). 

[2]Wyman,The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book; Jon Michaud, “Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie.”The New Yorker, 19 June 2017. 

[3]Janann Sherman, No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001). 

[4]Jeannette W. Cockroft, “The Transformative Power of Work: The Early Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith,” Maine History47:2 (July 2013); Diane Tye, Baking as Biography: a Life Story in Recipes(Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010).

[5]Email correspondence with Angie Stockwell, Archivist, Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

Lobster Newburg: Margaret Chase Smith’s Promotion of a Maine Ingredient

Nicole Ritchey

The Margaret Chase Smith Recipes Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maine. Members represent a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, folklore, anthropology, public policy, food science, and business. Senator Smith was a trailblazer, passionate about bringing people together through civil discourse, often over a home-cooked meal. She was a proud homemaker throughout her thirty-three years in office, and she maintained an extensive recipe collection, using recipes from her collection to entertain fellow policymakers in Washington and at home in Maine. The collaborative formed to support students and faculty interested in issues of food, recipes, politics, history, and their intersections.

This post is part of a series of student research projects exploring a recipe from Smith’s collection from an Honors tutorial taught by Dr. Rachel Snell in Spring 2019. Combined the students’ insights provide a new window into Sen. Smith’s private and public persona as well as the cultural, social, and scientific context of her lifetime. 

Maine Lobster postcard c. 1920. Courtesy of the Jesup Memorial Library.

Lobster history is not new news to most Mainers or many New Englanders. Most people know about its “cockroach of the sea” to riches story. Once known as poor man’s food, this crustacean has risen from cockroach of the sea to a hot commodity. A lot of this “take off” is centered in Maine and occurred during Margaret Chase Smith’s lifetime, consequently influencing her recipe collection.

Lobsters were once so abundant along the coastline of northern New England that eating lobster was a sign of poverty. In the 1600s, it is rumored that lobsters washed up in two-foot piles after storms (History 2018). Native Americans used lobster to bait their hooks because of their availability (Willett 2013). Collected from the shoreline or speared in shallow water, lobster was eaten dead at this time. By the 1820s, Smackmen collected live lobsters using special wells in their boats that circulated sea water. Burnham & Morrill founded the first lobster cannery in 1836, the cans sold for one-fifth of the price of their Boston Baked Beans (DeBenedictis 2015). The growth of the railroad helped lobster find an audience outside of coastal areas (Willet 2013). By the 1850s canned lobster was being served as a side in salad bars. Around the same time, fishers switched to using lobster traps because lobster was becoming less plentiful in shallow waters.

Lobsterman with his (giant) catch. Swan’s Island c. 1930. Courtesy of the Swan Island Educational Society.

People would travel to the coast to enjoy fresh lobster, baffling many native New Englanders. For the coastal state residents, lobster still epitomized cheap, lower class food. Chefs discovered in 1876 that cooking live lobster “unlocked” many flavors. Live cooking became an instant hit and almost immediately led the creation of the first Lobster Pound in Vinalhaven, Maine. This was a place for local fishers to drop off their lobsters which would all be shipped live together in large batches. This centralized shipping and increased time fishers could be out. 

According to rumors, Lobster Newburg was invented in 1876. The popular theory begins in Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City. Ben Wenberg created the idea for and gave his name to the dish. Allegedly, an argument with the restaurant owner led to changing the dish’s name to Newburg (What’s Cooking 2017). The sauce used in Lobster Newburg is Terrapin sauce, used frequently in recipes before 1876 (Whitaker 2010). The first published recipe for Lobster Newburg is in Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion, by the principal of the School of Cookery in New York, copyrighted in 1887. This recipe calls for a four-pound lobster and two types of alcohol (Parola 1887).

This image shows two Mainers, Sen. Smith and Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster, enjoying lobster at the Maine State Society’s annual Lobster Dinner on February 22, 1946 held in the U.S. Interior Department’s cafeteria. Courtesy of Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library. 

Margaret Chase Smith was born in Skowhegan, Maine (about seventy-five miles from the coast) in 1897, just a decade after the publication of Miss Parola’s recipe. Maine has a two-sided history with lobster. George H. Lewis shows the role of class in the acceptance of lobster with the differences between “summer people” and permeant residents in Maine. In his article, “The Maine Lobster as Regional Icon: Competing Images Over Time and Social Class,” Lewis argues the symbolism of lobster largely depends on socioeconomic factors. The summer people are often upper-class visitors who cultivated the idea that Maine lobster was an icon of the state. They helped drive up demand and prices and brought about a tourism boom. Year-round residents in some parts of the state often have a very negative view of lobster still. Lobster was trash food in the beginning for them, and now that prices have risen, they can barely afford what used to be the cheapest protein (Lewis 1989). 

Sen. Smith hosted President Dwight Eisenhower for a traditional lobster bake on the lawn of her home in Skowhegan in 1955. Courtesy of Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

It is unlikely Smith grew up eating lobster due to Skowhegan’s distance from the coast. However, there are several recipes for lobster (as well as other seafood) in her collection, including a recipe for Lobster Newburg on her Senate stationery that she kept to respond to recipe requests. Smith regularly received requests specifically for lobster recipes, likely because of the association between Maine and lobster. In 1968, the editor of the forthcoming Republican Cookbookcontacted Smith requesting her “favorite way of doing lobster.” Smith responded with her recipes for Lobster Rarebit and Lobster Casserole which the editor responded were precisely the “regional specialties” they desired to feature (Margaret Chase Smith Library). 

Recipe for Lobster Newberg [sic] from Smith’s recipe collection. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.
Recipe for a quick lobster newburg from Smith’s collection. This recipe utilitizes canned lobster. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library.

Smith frequently promoted Maine lobster. In addition to her recipes, she showcased the crustacean at social events. In 1946, she attended the Maine State Society’s annual Lobster Dinner, a continuing tradition since 1945. In 1955, during a vacation in the state, Smith hosted President Eisenhower for a steak and lobster bake at her Skowhegan home. It is likely Smith served lobster to guests in Washington, D.C., possibly because her visitors would have the connotation of lobster meaning Maine. Recipes in her collection using both canned and fresh lobster would allow her to select a recipe based on her location or her schedule – one recipe for lobster newburg using canned lobster was annotated by Smith “quick.” As a busy senator, she likely valued these recipes that were timesavers and accessible. While it’s unlikely Smith grew up eating lobster, she embraced the ingredient as increasingly emblematic of the nation’s perception of Maine food and promoted lobster consumption to help the industry grow. 

Nicole Ritchey is a fourth-year Marine Science major with a minor in computer science and member of the Honors College at the University of Maine. 


DeBenedictis, E. (2015). Lobster’s Delicious History is completely Insane. Munchies, Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xy7vzw/lobsters-delicious-history-is-completely-insane

(2018). A Taste of Lobster History. History,Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/a-taste-of-lobster-history

Lewis, G. H. (1989). The Maine Lobster as Regional Icon: Competing Images Over Time and Social Class. Food & Foodways, 3(4) 303-316.

Parola, M. (1887). Lobster Newburg. Miss Parola’s Kitchen Companion, Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=X34EAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA225&dq=lobster+newburg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hwTpT7SqEqzs2AXOkJz5DQ&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=lobster%20newburg&f=false

Smith, Margaret Chase. (1940-1973). Recipe correspondence. Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library, Skowhegan, Maine. 

What’s Cooking America. (2017). Lobster Newberg History and Recipe. What’s Cooking America, Retrieved from https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/LobsterNewbergHistory.htm

Whitaker, J. (2010). Who Invented…Lobster Newberg? Restaurant-ing through history, Retrieved from https://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2010/04/19/who-invented-lobster-newberg/

Willett, M. (2013). The Remarkable Story of How Lobster went from being used as Fertilizer to a Beloved Delicacy. Business Insider, Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/the-history-of-gourmet-lobster-2013-8

Cheese Salad (Chilled): A Taste of Nostalgia

Kate Follansbee

The Margaret Chase Smith Recipes Research Collaborative is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maine. Members represent a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, folklore, anthropology, public policy, food science, and business. Senator Smith was a trailblazer, passionate about bringing people together through civil discourse, often over a home-cooked meal. She was a proud homemaker throughout her thirty-three years in office, and she maintained an extensive recipe collection, using recipes from her collection to entertain fellow policymakers in Washington and at home in Maine. The collaborative formed to support students and faculty interested in issues of food, recipes, politics, history, and their intersections.

This post is part of a series of student research projects exploring a recipe from Smith’s collection from an Honors tutorial taught by Dr. Rachel Snell in Spring 2019. Combined the students’ insights provide a new window into Sen. Smith’s private and public persona as well as the cultural, social, and scientific context of her lifetime. 

A congressional portrait of Sen. Smith.

Margaret Chase Smith was a Maine native and a groundbreaking woman in political history. As the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, Smith maintained a domestic charm while becoming a powerful and independent politician. Smith lived her entire life (aside from her time in Washington) in Skowhegan, Maine. She never went to college and was a devoted wife to Clyde Smith, who was a member of the House of Representatives. As a politician’s wife, she honed her skills as a political candidate, learning how to connect with the people. Before Clyde died in 1940, he asked her to take his seat in the house. This was the start of her thirty-three-year career in Congress. 

While in office, Smith received many recipe requests. Smith had a collection of recipe utilizing Maine ingredients prepared on her Senate office stationery, always ready to mail a recipe. Many of her recipes were heavily influenced by Maine foods traditions, such as blueberry muffins, lobster dishes, and baked beans. An anomaly within the collection is a card containing the directions to prepare Cheese Salad (chilled). Our class, “Food, Feminism, and Femininity,” has focused on Smith’s recipe collection, and I selected the cheese salad recipe for analysis for several reasons. First, I was intrigued by the mix of ingredients. Cheese salad (chilled) contains mayonnaise, pineapple, maraschino cherries, green pepper, cream, walnuts, and paprika. The instructions are also quite vague, presenting a challenge for preparing the recipe. Finally, I wanted to look more deeply into the emergence of convenience foods in the twentieth century, and the idea of what constituted a “salad” during this period. 

Recipe for “Cheese Salad (Chilled)” from Smith’s recipe collection. Courtesy of the Margaret Chase Smith Museum and Library. 

Reading through the recipe and noting the ingredients, reminded me of another class research project focused on Maine community cookbooks compiled in the 1920s and 1930s. My classmates and I noted a prevalence of molded salads in these texts, concoctions of fruit, vegetables, dairy, gelatin, and sometimes meat that were hugely unappealing to our twenty-first-century palates. In my examination of The Wilton Cookbook compiled by the ladies of the Wilton Episcopal Church in 1922, I noted a number of recipes for molded salads such as Nut Frappe, Pineapple Cream, and Lemon Sponge. These concoctions frequently relied on gelatin to hold the ingredients and whipped cream to provide taste and texture. These recipes especially are quite “of the times” in terms of ingredients. I noted many convenience foods, including whipped cream, which Diane Tye discusses in Baking as Biography, as “a convenience food which was often mixed with canned or frozen fruit.” Tye also covers the popularity of gelatin, The Wilton Cookbook contains advertisements for Knox Sparkling Gelatin at the top of every page, indicating the company as a potential sponsor of the cookbook but also the prevalence of gelatin in popular cooking.

The recipe and image for “Under-the-Sea Salad” from The Greater Jell-O Recipe Book(1931) provides a sense of the flavor combination and attention to presentation in popular molded salad recipes. Courtesy of the Michigan State University Archives. 

The insights from this research guided my interpretation of Smith’s Cheese Salad (Chilled) recipe. The “Salad” portion of Smith’s recipe collection mainly consists of recipes for salad dressing; however, in addition to the Cheese Salad, there are three other molded salad recipes. Ribbon Salad, Lime Cucumber Salad, and the simply named “Salad” that rely on combinations of convenience foods (canned fruit cocktail or tomato soup) with mayonnaise and/or cream cheese (Lime Cucumber Salad is an outlier calling for cottage cheese) with flavored Jell-O or plain gelatin served molded. These too offered some guidance for my analysis. 

Ingredients for assembling Cheese Salad (chilled). Photo by the author.

I had several initial questions. What is a cheese salad even supposed to taste like? How much salt and paprika? How do you serve it? It says, “freeze stiff,” so was I supposed to serve it stiff? Like ice cream? With very little information given, I decided to make cheese salad into a dip for crackers. I decided that for a dip, two packages of cream cheese would make the most sense. I decided that the chopped fruit should look like the fruit you would get in a fruit cake mix, so I chopped everything into tiny cubes. I determined that crushed pineapple would probably work better than chopping pineapple slices because they have a tendency to shred into pieces I added ½ teaspoon of salt, because that seems standard for recipes (based on things that I have cooked in the past) and ¼ of paprika, because I did not want to go overboard with a surprising flavor. In my opinion, even that much was too much—the paprika was too overwhelming. After mixing everything, I decided to put it in a rounded bowl so that when I flipped it, it would look molded. I based this decision on my knowledge of past generation’s fascination with molded salads. I will not lie; this step was quite unappealing; the mixture smelled odd and looked like lumpy, flesh-colored ice cream. While the outcome looks deceptively like a cake, cheese salad tastes like a fascinating mix of sweet and salty, and the paprika is quite evident.

Cheese Salad (Chilled) plated for serving with crackers. Photo by the author.

Serving this dish to different groups revealed changing tastes and the power of nostalgia in the enjoyment of a recipe. When I served this dish to my twenty-year-old peers, they were all disgusted, and I figured that the recipe was a complete failure. However, when I fed the same dish to a group of college professors, whose ages ranged from 30s to 60s, they had a completely different reaction. The professors remarked that the dish reminded them of housewarming parties from their childhood, their grandmothers’ cooking, and 1950s-esque foods. Many told me about similar recipes, such as ambrosia salad or dishes involving Cool Whip, mayonnaise, and Jell-O powder. All in all, I learned that taste changes with generation, so while cheese salad might not be such a hit at a sweet sixteen, consider it if you want to make something reminiscent of decades past.

Kate Follansbee is a third-year Communications major with a minor in Economics and member of the Honors College at the University of Maine. 


Janann Sherman, No Place for a Woman: A Life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001). 

Diane Tye, Baking as Biography: a Life Story in Recipes(Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010).

Methodist Episcopal Church, Wilton Cookbook (Nelson Print, 1922).