Katherine Anne Porter loved to cook and entertain! She would swap recipes via letters and entice her friends to visit with promises of blueberry pancakes and smoked oysters. Even the simplest of dinners was an occasion for Porter. She would create detailed menus listing the attendees, courses served, and drinks to match. Bigger events like holidays and parties were an excuse for Porter to indulge in Moët champagne and cook favorite recipes from her travels around the world. Over the years, she saved labels from different products and write anecdotes about the meal and who she shared it with. When friends couldn’t make a visit, Porter would mail them her homemade “Hell Broth,” a fermented pepper sauce, to add warmth to soups and sauces.
When the rubber spatula came out in 1920’s, it was a big deal for Porter who claimed it to be an astounding utensil! Porter’s interest in cooking lead to experiments with different ingredients. Sometimes her experimental cooking would go so far as to transform a recipe into a completely different dish from a totally different culture. She only measured by eye, calling the ability to cook a “gift” that required “your eye, your hand, and your sense of smell and taste to be present and all good friends.” Outside of dinner parties and recipe adventures, Porter took great joy in simple food too, like the perfect piece of toast. Of course, the bread was always homemade and it would be served alongside her kitchen staples of a cheap beefsteak and Old Forester whisky.
You can see some of Porter’s recipes and cookbook collection on display now in the Maryland Room! Browse the finding aid for the Katherine Anne Porter papers to explore her collection at UMD. Contact us to learn more!
Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.
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