Little Known Black History Fact: Abby Fisher

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Though she could not read or write herself, friends of Fisher encouraged her to record her award-winning foods to share. In 1881, Abby Fisher published, “What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking: Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc.,” published by the Women’s Cooperative Printing Office in San Francisco. This is only one of the many businesses that supported Fisher’s work. Abby Fisher’s cookbook was known for its unusual spelling of dishes and ingredients that we know today. It was most likely because of her explanation of the recipes that a second party recorded. For instance, she would call Jambalaya “Jumberlie.” Fisher refers to a dish called Circuit Hash, which was most likely succotash and the milanaise sauce used in her recipe for chicken salad is mayonnaise.

In 1984, a century after the first publication, a volume of the cookbook was put up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York. The book was purchased by the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University.

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