Hyacinth House | How America Eats

Clementine Paddleford’s classic cookbook, How America Eats (1960), begins with recipes from New England. Here, she introduces us to Mrs. Mildred M. Rutherford, mistress of Hyacinth House in South Woodstock, Vermont (pg. 13; all text quoted from the book):

If thou of fortune be bereft
And in they store there be but left
Two loaves--sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

This quotation is the reason for the naming of Hyacinth House, the home and “inn of sorts” of Mrs. Mildred M. Rutherford of South Woodstock, Vermont.

It’s and old house, and old houses are gentle thing; this one particularly so, built to beauty in 1812. It stands high on a knoll far back from the road, a stream between. The far side faces east into pine-covered mountains, soft green against the sky.

Mistress of the house is in her parlor-office-bedroom-den. She looked pert as you pleased propped up against the pillows of a broad bed. And pretty, too, the soft blue shawl around her shoulders, her white curls tight and trim, pinned high on her head. On every side cookbooks, account books, recipe files.

It was arthritis that put Mrs. Rutherford to bed but she didn’t complain, she didn’t give up. A strangely ingenious woman, she took a downstairs room within earshot of the kitchen and continued to be mistress of the house. … A smiling room without the feel of discontent, a room comforting and self-contained, a little world complete.

Her laughter came quickly into the tick-tock quiet of the place. She adjusted her glasses and looked through a small dilapidated book, yellowed with age. “I love this book,” she said. “All of these are old New England recipes.” Her eyes, hesitating between gray and blue, held a quiet smile.

The early winter twilight pushed thick and furry against the windows. Through the bedroom door came the smell of baking beans. Throughout the house a smell aromatic and stored, of wood, of chintz, of floors much walked upon.

These beans are a Saturday-night supper served with tomato-juice cocktail, boiled home-cured ham with homemade jellies, and mustard pickles and thick rich chili sauce. Always the homemade brown bread. Cole slaw for the salad, hot milk spongecake the dessert or a lemon sponge pudding, this is nice.


More photos of South Woodstock, Vermont

3 thoughts on “Hyacinth House | How America Eats”

  1. This is some recipe book. Such lovely descriptive writing. “The early winter twilight pushed thick and furry against the windows.” – Gorgeous!

    1. As I have said, food writers don’t get their due in the book world. Doesn’t she sound like someone who would be a delight to be around? Wait until she goes to Florida and visits a trailer park!

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