Sarita’s Sort-of-Secret Soups | News, Sports, Jobs

Photos by Nora Edinger Sarita Oglebay began compiling recipes for the household in the early 1900s, which she would eventually share with her then-secret fiance, Courtney Burton. The recipes—some handwritten, others typed—filled an address book. This book and a journal that Sarita kept shortly before her marriage in 1912 are part of the Oglebay Mansion Museum collections.

WHEELING – It wouldn’t be unusual for a woman of Sarita Oglebay’s marriageable age and upper class to dream up the details of an elaborate household of her own. But a small collection of recipes compiled by shipping magnate Earl Oglebay’s daughter in the early 1900s suggests a bit of conspiracy.

For one, at the time, Sarita was in the years-long process of secretly getting engaged to Courtney Burton — a young man who initially found no favor with her father. (The couple married in 1912 and had a son before Burton succumbed to what became known as the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919.)

On the other hand, the recipes are put in a repurposed address book, whose letter divisions are fortunately ignored in favor of a food grouping. Some of the ingredients are written in Sarita’s minimalist cursive—only a few flourishes are visible. Some are typed.

“I wonder if she could type?” mused Kara Yenkevich, curator of the Museum of Oglebay Institute’s collections. “It is known that Earl Oglebay had a typewriter. There are typed documents from this period.”

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While it’s possible that Sarita — secretly or not — typed the cards, Yenkevich noted that the family’s wealth meant it did, and menu planning likely would have gone as far as her connection to the recipes would have gone.

“She certainly wouldn’t have cooked them herself, but she found recipes for other people to try,” Yenkevich explained. “She grew up watching her mom do the housework and the kitchen, and I’m sure reading it made her think, ‘That sounds delicious,’ just like we do today.”


Whenever and by whomever the recipes were actually prepared, Yenkevich said it’s important to keep them in context.

The Oglebays even ate their family meals in courses brought to the table by housekeeping staff. (If you spent the summers in Wheeling, that would have meant a short walk from the manor’s kitchen – which had water and gas and electrified given Earl Oglebay’s penchant for the tech of the day – to the nearby family dining room.)

She noted that Sarita’s cookbook is a bit too heavy with sweets and pastries, but there are also a handful of recipes for the soup course. Served as an early part of the meal — as an appetizer, often after a salad or cold dish — Yenkevich said the soup was served in controlled portions to keep diners’ appetites for the courses that followed.

Interestingly, for all the wealth the Oglebays had, the soups are remarkably simple compared to today’s hearty fall and winter dishes, which often feature soup as a main course.

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Yenkevich said this could be because recipes that appeared in national magazines should have been limited to ingredients that were commonly found. She also noted that immigrants particularly skilled in the art of seasoning — such as a wave of 4 million Italians who arrived at the turn of the 20th century — had not yet arrived on the culinary scene.

“The complexity continued to increase as we learned and as things got more global,” Yenkevich said of salt and pepper standing almost alone in ingredient lists.

Even so, Sarita’s secret recipes allow willing readers to at least contemplate a meal fit for Wheeling’s most royal cause. Here are three, in Sarita’s exact words, from her collection:

Clear soup.

Place the bones and meat in cold water with salt. Leave for 1 ½ hours. Then cook all day – slowly. ¾ hour before removing (heating), sauté vegetables and add to broth. Strain and let stand overnight. Pass through cheesecloth – leave to stand and skim off fat and settle with egg whites.

Mrs. Muvells (name uncertain)

(Note that modern food safety standards would leave the soup in the fridge overnight rather than on a counter. And some modern cooks would not use unpasteurized egg whites without reheating the broth for the same reason.)

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Mushroom soup.

½ pound fresh mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon of salt

1 salt spoon of pepper

1 liter of milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Yokes (sic) of 2 eggs

Wash and finely chop ½ pound fresh mushrooms. Put in a saucepan with butter, salt, pepper; cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. add milk and bring to a boil; add cornstarch moistened in two tablespoons of cold milk. Stir until the soup is a little thick. Strain through a sieve; Return to the fire and add the yolks of two eggs. When it’s hot, it’s ready to serve.

Daisy Rick’s.

July 8, 1905

Gumbo Soup.

Take a year-old chicken; cut into pieces and fry. After removing the chicken, sauté two sliced ​​tomatoes. Place in a soup kettle and add six liters of water. Cook until the meat falls off the bones. Remove skin and bones. Put the shredded meat back into the soup. Add a can of sliced ​​gumbo*; 1 small pepper and salt for seasoning. Cook for an hour. Have cooked rice ready to serve in a separate bowl.

B. King.

New Orleans recipe.

*Although canning was widespread in the early 1900s, even after research it is unclear what type of gumbo product could be canned. One possibility is okra – which would have existed in dried form back then.


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