Downhome Recipes

Captain Joseph C. Hutcheson: Warrior-Poet Of Texas's First Cookbook

To read his recipe for cornfield peas is to make the acquaintance of a good man.

By John Lomax August 19, 2013

Captain Joseph C. Hutcheson was born about 130 years too early. Sure he accomplished a lot in his lifetime (1842-1924). Before his burial in Glenwood Cemetery, Hutcheson served as an officer under Stonewall Jackson, survived the war, became a lawyer, came to Houston, fathered ten children with two wives, helped bring the Houston Ship Channel to town, and served a few terms in the Texas Legislature, where he authored the bill that established the University of Texas.

Which is all well and good, but we think his life, and all of our lives, would have been even better if he could have also hosted his own show on The Food Network.

 All we are basing this on is Hutcheson’s cornfield peas recipe from The Texas Cook Book, A Thorough Treatise the Art of Cookery. (Published in 1883 by the Ladies’ Association of the First Presbyterian Church, it was the Lone Star State’s first such manual; Hutcheson’s was the book’s sole male voice.)

Pure poetry follows; as the late Houston Post reporter and local historian George Fuermann wrote: “Read the captain’s recipe for cornfield peas, and come to know a good man.”

Go to the pea-patch early in the morning and gather the peas, take them home in a split basket. Take them in the left hand and gouge them out with your right tumb until it gets sore, then reverse hands. Look the pea well in the eye to see its color, but cook them anyway, as no color exempts the pea from domestic service, still the grey eye and white lips and cheeks are to be preferred. Throw the shelled peas mercilessly into hot water and boil them until they "cave in." When you see they are well subdued, take them out and fry them about ten minutes in gravy – a plenty of gravy, a good fat meat gravy, and try to induce the gravy to marry and become social with the peas.  When you see that the union is complete, so that no man can put them asunder, and would not wish to if he could, put them in a dish and eat them all.
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