The Malinda Russell Recipe Testing Project’s purpose is to make every recipe in her “Domestic Cookbook” (1866) accessible to today’s bakers.
Malinda Russell, born free probably around 1812, lived in the American South when most African Americans were enslaved. Malinda Russell escaped from the South to Paw Paw, Michigan after having been attacked by irregular forces who drove her from her home. In 1866 she published a cookbook with approximately 250 recipes. The book has dessert recipes, savory dishes, and medicinal recipes. As she had owned a bakery, and may have have also for some periods of her life had a side business as a caterer, her cookbook is particularly strong on desserts. Her recipes are not written in a modern style. Like many cookbook authors of her time, Malinda Russell assumed that her readers had a basic understanding the dish for which she was providing the recipe. Thus, for example, it is obvious that a cake has flour, so she might not always mention it, or wouldn’t give the exact quantity. Our mission is to give life back to Malinda Russells’s fabulous recipes by working out all of the details, and then making this research available to anyone interested in the uniquely varied set of dessert recipes that she published in 1866. We are adapting recipes for the modern kitchen, but we are not modernizing the recipes. Nothing is added or taken away from the recipe. We are simply making sure that quantities are specified and instructions appropriate to her period are included.
History & How to Take Part
We are an open group of culinary historians. We started this project in early 2021, when we were all locked down because of the Covid Pandemic, and thus had more time than usual to engage with a project of this scale! The initial group of three testers grew out of a Zoom seminar on bread history. The group has grown considerably, and is always seeking to new members. If you are interested in joining, either as someone who works directly with Malinda Russell’s recipes, or who would like to test the recipes once the recipe has been written into modern recipe style, then please click here for more information.
The Adapting Recipe Group of Culinary Historians
Kimberly Palmer Wright