Cooking with J.M. Swords
By Morgan Gates
I suppose civilized man has always depended on some version of social media. Long before Facebook and Twitter news both real and fake circulated via whatever media was available. Perhaps town criers and town gossips being the oldest. The invention of the movable type printing press in the in the 1400’s revolutionized the social media world in a way unmatched until the present day’s internet. Books once rare and the province of the very wealthy were now widely available. The next evolution of this information revolution was the newspaper in 1605. That is a single current-affairs series regularly published at intervals short enough for readers to keep abreast of incoming news! For 400 years newspapers ruled the roost of social media. Full of Notable Events Sports and Weather (NEWS) they kept people current on matters both great and small. Some of the most popular of the short but enjoyable features common in “papers” were both social events and recipes.
Nineteenth-century Vicksburg as a thriving community had several newspapers. One was the Daily Citizen published by J. M. Swords. Swords continued publishing throughout the Siege of Vicksburg despite hardships such as running out of proper newsprint and substituting wallpaper. In its July 2nd edition, The Citizen records one such social event with at least a suggestion of a recipe:
…poor defunct Thomas (and old cat of the neighborhood) was prepared not for the grave but for the pot, and several friends invited to partake of a "nice rabbit." As a matter of course, no one would wound the feelings of another, especially in these times, by refusing a cordial invitation to dinner, and the guest aided in consuming the poor animal with relish that did honor to their epicurean tastes. The “sold” assured the meat was delicious and that “pussy” must look out for their safety.
There is no mention of just how hapless old Thomas was prepared for the pot in this article, however, at the very end of this edition of the Daily Citizen there is a “late edition edit” added July 4th by Union troops who had recently entered the city.
Two days bring about great changes the banner of the Union floats over Vicksburg… The Citizen lives to see it. For the last time it appears on wallpaper. No more shall it eulogize the luxury of mule meat and fricassee kitten—urge southern warriors to such diet nevermore…
Until next time Bon Appetit from your friends a Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg