Book Review: The 19th Amendment Centennial Cookbook

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Book Review: The 19th Amendment Centennial Cookbook
Image from Pixabay

By Kathy Megyeri 

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

-Julia Child

As I write this, recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is lying in state in the U.S. Capitol, the first woman ever to be so honored, and my own souvenir of the event is to prepare two of her favorite recipes, one for Quick Ratatouille and another for Vitello Tonnato, both lovingly prepared regularly by her husband and “chef supreme,” as she called her husband, Martin Ginsburg.   

Compiled among 100 recipes and published by the Commission on the Nineteenth Amendment by the American Bar Association, the cookbook entitled “The Nineteenth Amendment Centennial Cookbook: 100 Recipes for 100 Years” will be my holiday gift for all the women on my list, but best of all, it is free!  

All I have to do is download the 135 pages from the website www.19thAmendmentCookbook.com, print it off, bind it in a festive way and present it to the women I love and admire. The recipes are from many formidable contributors: justices of the Supreme Court, judges from international courts and from federal and state courts, lawyers and executives from non-profit organizations and the media, but the recipes are from home cooks and not professional chefs. Still, they come from the best of our legal minds and were donated with goodwill and affection in the spirit of sharing, all to celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment.

The book also contains artwork from the Smithsonian’s Collection and favorite quotations by some of America’s leading ladies throughout history. 

A cover of the book
A cover of the book. From ABA Journal

Why a cookbook?

As Margaret McKeown, chair of the ABA’s Commission on the 19th Amendment, states, “Food has played an important role in life, culture and community. It is our common ground and universal experience, so this cookbook celebrates the courage of the suffragists because cookbooks have deep roots in the movement.”  

McKeown continues, “To gain support, the suffragists published at least a half dozen cookbooks leading up to the passage of the Amendment. The first was published in 1885 and in the introduction, the editor called the cookbook ‘our messenger’ and believed it would ‘go forth a blessing to housekeepers, and be an advocate for the elevation and enfranchisement of women.’” 

L. O. Kleber, the compiler of a 1915 cookbook, wrote, ‘As it is a serious matter what is put into the human stomach, I feel it incumbent to say that my readers may safely eat everything set down in this book… the food will strengthen friendship and weaken enmity.’” 

McKeown reminds us, too, that just over a century ago, the 1918 influenza pandemic was sweeping across the county and threatened to end decades of suffragist efforts. Rallies, parades and speeches were cancelled, but that didn’t stop the women’s efforts. In the same way that COVID-19 has changed the way we connect with others and has brought such upheaval to so many lives, women are cooking more and sharing food with others.  

Ninth Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown. Photo by Jason Doiy. Image from Law.com

One recommendation by an original cook in 1918 was the “Emergency Salad”: one-tenth onion and nine-tenths apple plus salad dressing. The early cookbooks also included basics on how to brew tea to be served with cakes covered in boiled merengue frosting. Like today, they featured comfort foods like soups, pot roasts and fruit salads.  

Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, and thankfully our vote, “… shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” What a milestone and historic event that brought about the largest expansion of democracy in America. Yet ratification was the beginning of an even longer struggle for equality. McKeown’s hope is that this cookbook reminds us of the heroic efforts of our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers along with the men who supported the cause and voted for ratification of the 19th Amendment, but she desires that we all work towards “a better, more equitable future.” 

Meanwhile, after I finish the two recipes submitted by Justice Ginsburg, I’ve decided to make Pizza with Pesto and Sweet Corn, a recipe submitted by Amal Clooney (wife of George Clooney), David’s Apple Squash Soup by NPR’s Nina Totenberg and then finish off my session by baking Hillary Clinton’s famous Chocolate Chip Cookies.  

I think Justice Ginsburg would be pleased with my cooking efforts today—what better way to celebrate her contributions, as well as the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment? Best of all, the second page of the cookbook contains a Smithsonian Institution sign that I hung in my window today: “A woman living here has registered to vote, thereby assuming responsibility of citizenship.” How perfect for all to see in this special year for us women. 

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