Retro Recipes: Titty Sauce Yams, 1961

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Photos by Stephanie Butler

Welcome to Retro Recipes! Brought to you from the capable kitchen of Eat Me Daily's Stephanie Butler, each week revisits a preparation from the past that straddles the line between ingenious and absurd. This week: Titty Sauce Yams.

Well, folks, it's happened again. St. Vincent himself smiles down upon me, because a truly inspiring thrift store cookbook find has fallen in my lap. A good friend recently went home to Wisconsin for a visit, and started sending me texts like, "I have bought you the best present ever" and "Spinach mother of god". She returned home with a thin book bound in a gold cover, with an impressive family crest on the front. Ladies and gents, may I present Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices (buy at Amazon), by the illustrious Mr. George Leonard Herter of Waseca, Minnesota. It's impossible to improve upon or even accurately convey the passionate prose of Mr. Herter, so I'll let him take it away. From the third paragraph:

"I will start with meats, fish, eggs, soups and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of French frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to properly sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make French soap, what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack. Keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible."

We are going to eat good tonight

This book is an extraordinary artifact. Recipes of uncertain provenance, like Spaghetti Dupont and Eggs Odyssey, are given full and detailed histories. Did you know, for instance, that the celebrated gunslinger Bat Masterson of Dodge City, Kansas, was a great fan of the hot dog sandwich? Neither did I, but thanks to Bull Cook, you, too, can prepare Prairie Dog Bat Masterson. You can also learn how to butcher and dress a javelina, make parsnip wine, and survive the H-bomb (hint: start stockpiling laxatives now). All this is interspersed with gemlike non-sequitors such as "Never underestimate the Chinese people" and "New Orleans is about sixty five percent Catholic but this does not keep the city from being naughty." My own personal favorite is his advice regarding menstruating women and mayonnaise:

"Mayonnaise is easy to make and you will never have a failure with one exception. If you are a woman do not attempt to make mayonnaise during menstruating time or the mayonnaise will simply not blend together at all well. This is not superstition but a well-established fact well known to all women cooks. With all the vast knowledge that we think we have we are still like lost children in a great woods. There are countless facts in everyday living that will always remain a complete mystery."

Truer words never spoken, sir. And although I personally have not found his mayo invective to hold water, those last two sentences kind of make me wish he'd written a dating guide. Oh wait. He did. And it's called How To Live With A Bitch. Of course.

A good man can eat a loaf in three meals

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The recipe I've chosen to make this week is, in typical Herter understated style, "the greatest recipe ever made with the yam or sweet potato." Titty Sauce Yams originated in the kitchen of a slave woman named Canary Richardson, who created the sauce in homage to the honey/water mixture that slave women would put on their breasts to induce white plantation owners' babies to nurse. That's right, this recipe isn't named after a woman named Titty, or an old English town. This is the genuine titty article: ar-tit-cle, if you must.

I cooked the yams according to Herter's instructions, first boiling them for 20 minutes and then roasting, skin on, for 40. While they roasted I tackled the sauce. A half cup of water plus a fourth cup of honey was all it called for, plus a teaspoon each of almond and cherry extract. The recipe didn't mention reducing the sauce or cooking it to a syrup stage, so I was left with a runny puddle of brown liquid that smelled like a drugstore croissant. I cut the yams into bite-size chunks, poured the sauce over the top, and added butter.

The best snapping turtles come from Waterville, Minnesota

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I'll be honest with you, I don't normally take my titties with almond-cherry sauce. It was cloying and fake and just plain gross. It would have been better had the sauce been thick, but as it was the Titty Sauce Yams were far from the greatest recipe I've ever made with the yam. Frankly, I'd caution against taking any of Mr. Herter's recipes seriously, especially since he starts off one chapter with the phrase, "Weiners are one of the world's fine foods when cooked properly." But if you are in need of a spiritual and emotional boost, scour your local Goodwill for l'oeuvre Herter. I've got my eye out for How To Get Out of the Rat Race and Live On $10 A Month, but I'd settle for The Truth About Hunting in Today's Africa.

Recipe: Titty Sauce Yams

2 yams
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cherry extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Boil yams, skin on, for 20 minutes. Bake with skins on in 350 oven for 40 minutes. While baking, boil 1/2 cup water with the honey, add extracts. Remove skin on yams and cut into bite-size pieces, pour sauce on top. Garnish with butter pats.

–Stephanie Butler

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12 Comments

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  1. what a perfectly good waste of a perfectly good yam. BLAH! All for the sake of comedy!

  2. DBSweeney

    I prefer my titty sauce to be poured over actual titties. Yams are the poor man's bosom.

  3. I'll never look at mayo the same way ever.

    Cookbook Fail!

  4. DBSweeney: call me. I loved you in "The Cutting Edge."

    Stephanie: Somewhere, George Herter is weeping the saltiest tears ever to run down the face of any creature. Either that, or grinding his own hamburgers. This is a delightful peek into a book that can provide hours of entertainment.

  5. Will

    oh miss stephanie! i love your articles! they are always hilarious

  6. Allison

    Wow. This is fabulous. Your writing totally makes up for all the damage this man may have caused in ruining a perfectly awesome vegetable. :)

  7. What a fantastic article. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of Mr Herter's masterwork.

  8. Liz

    Sounds utterly revolting - but your commentary made it all worth while. I wonder whether Canary Richardson came up with this waste of a sweet potato as a sort of subtle revenge for years of mayonnaise comments?

  9. Erin

    The New York Times published an essay on Herter and this book: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/books/review/Collins-t.html

    I'm eager to find a copy!

  10. Stephanie

    I was told today by the librarian at the French Culinary Institute that his books aren't actually all that difficult to find, and that you can usually find a copy priced fairly reasonably on bookfinder.com. apparently "how to live with a bitch" is the only one that's really expensive- rats!

  11. Moira

    Bleh. This has to be from a time when sweet potatoes were much less sweet than they are now. It makes my teeth ache just to read the recipe.

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