Franciscan Food in Cincinnati

franciscans

 

The Franciscans of the St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati have quite the reputation of “bringing it” to the table, when it comes to food. You might even say that they use food as a way to minister. It’s no small wonder that the Patron Saint of Cooks, St. Pasqual Baylon , was a Franciscan. Back in the late 1960s when St. Anthony’s Friary on Colerain Avenue was still a site of instruction for priests, Brother Andre Poisson (French for fish), taught yearlong cooking classes to Franciscan postulates out of the cookbook of Br. Herman Zaccarelli, a Holy Cross brother who became an authority on quantity cooking for religious houses. Every large religious house had a copy of his cookbook, which included recipes like “Meat Loaf for 500 Sisters.”

Br. Tim Sucher, Pastoral Associate at St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine, which runs the Over-the-Rhine soup kitchen, has his ‘office’ at local Tucker’s, a long time diner on Vine Street. Br. Gene Mayer, former Roger Bacon High School athletic director and my Freshman religion teacher, never shows up at a family baptism or celebration at my sister and brother-in-law’s house without a platter of his decadent chocolate chip cookies.

Lately my friend Matt, who will leave this week to start his study to become a Franciscan, has taken me on a tour of underknown Mom and Pop joints in Northern Kentucky. We joke about creating a podcast called, “Foodie and the Franciscan,” exploring these gems of Northern Kentucky.

In 1984 my home parish, Corpus Christi produced a cookbook, called “Recipes from Francis’ Friends”, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of our ‘little church on the hill.’ At the time, there were still many priests living in the hotel-like rectory next to the Church. The church had on staff a full time cook, and I remember as a gradeschooler walking into the huge rectory dining room once and being amazed at how many priests it could seat.   On the other side of the church was an equally sized hotel-like convent with same setup.

Interlaced with many local German recipes like sauerbraten, potato dumplings, kuchen, and even local faves like cottage ham and green beens, were these exotic Cajun and Creole recipes from friends of our pastor, Fr. Basil Westendick, to expand our otherwise Midwestern tastes and minds. That was because in 1967, ten years after his ordination as a Francisan, Fr. Basil was appointed pastor of St. Patrick Church in Port Sulfur, Louisiana, south of New Orleans, where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the freshest seafood in the country can be had here.

Included were Fr. Basil’s favorite recipes from the women of Port Sulfur, like baked redfish, oyster casserole, artichokes Italiano (probably more Siciliano, given the Sicilian immigrants to Southern Louisiana) lima beans and shrimp, shrimp Creole, and bread pudding with rum sauce. Fr. Basil came to our little church in 1978, where he spent the next 7 years running a beautifully progressive country Catholic church that talked about the Theology of Liberation (think of Poland donning Communism in 1989, and the fall of the Berlin Wall), and other tough topics. He made the mass innovative, inspiring, and made it feel like everyone had a seat at the table. My father worked closely with him on our parish council. It was an exciting time to be raised Catholic – there was a feeling that the steam of Vatican II was driving a positive change in the church.

Fr. Basil spent three more years in his beloved Louisiana, after leaving our parish, as pastor at St. Mary of the Angels in New Orleans, a largely African-American congregation serving the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, which would be hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Fr. Basil returned ‘home’ to Cincinnati, where he passed in 1991 at Franciscan Terrace. His funeral at ‘the little church on the hill’ was like a hero’s sendoff.

The current diocesan pastor of Corpus Christi, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, who is also pastor of St. John Neumann parish, is a foodie and has developed a reputation as quite the baker. He spent three years as a resident at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral downtown, eating the Italian-inspired food of cathedral chef, Itala Giovanna Delli Carpini-Trimpe, who wrote the cookbook, Holy Chow, which included favorite recipes of Cincinnati priests. Fr. Schnippel, who my mother calls mistakenly, “Fr. Schnitzel,” will be travelling to England later in the year to compete on a cooking show. He uses food as part of the discussion on his Just Another Priest Podcasts, which are a great meditative listen.

So don’t underestimate the cooking prowess of anyone in a brown cassock and rope belt with three knots. They may just convert you with their food.

Here’s To the Lady Who Invented Brunch

N_MadameBegue_s_restaurant_where_Tujagues_stands_1894_lg-589x412.jpg

French Quarter brunchers at Madame Begue’s in New Orleans, 1894.

It’s 1853 and the 1848 Revolution is still fresh in the minds of many of the working class in the Germanic kingdoms.     New Orleans has become, as Cincinnati, a haven for post- revolutionaries, who see America as the land of opportunity, at least in written form in the government.   New Orleans, was, and still is a melting pot of cultures – one of the things that makes their cuisine so exciting and exotic.   The Germans settled in the area east and north of the French Market, around the Ursuline Convent and north, around the area of the now touristy Lafitte’s.

One of those restless Germanic women, Lizzie Kettenring, had a brother Phillip, who had immigrated and was a butcher in New Orleans’ French Market.    She trailed him across the Atlantic, and met and fell in love with one of Phillip’s fellow butchers, a Creole named Louis Dutreil.    In 1863, the couple opened Dutrey’s Coffee House in the French Market, serving mostly butchers and marketgoers.

N_begues_rest_madame_sm.jpg

Elizabeth Kettenring Begue and her second husband, Hippolyte Begue.

I’m all about food writers.    And there’s currently a storm of food-history writers bringing back history with old forgotten recipes, new stories, and well researched food anthropology.    What I’m not cheerleeding for is food writers who take credit for, or who have been given credit, erroneously, for inventing something.     Such is the case with Englishman, Guy Beringer, who wrote an essay, “Brunch:  A Plea” in 1895, inspired by a weekend hangover.    It described a vision of a meal, brunch, in which breakfast, lunch, and alcohol converged to help stop the spinning and sate the nausea.    Fine, great – but his essay didn’t invent the concept nor the execution of said brunch.   And, he’s not a genius, just because he connected it with a cure for a weekend hangover.

What Guy Beringer probably knew was that the Germans had been eating what they called second breakfast, zweites Fruhstuck, for decades before his essay.     And, it was that Bavarian immigrant, Frau Elizabeth Kettenring Dutreil Begue, who had institutionalized it at her coffeehouse during the Civil War in New Orleans.    In 1875, Elizabeth was a widow, and married her bartender, another Creole, named Hippolyte Begue, several years her junior.     She changed the name of the coffeehouse to Begue’s, and continued to serve her one meal – the German second breakfast, which would become the American brunch.

begues_1909_ee.jpg

The German butchers were done with their morning work at 11 AM in the French Market, and were hungry to supplement the coffee and bread they had for first breakfast before dawn.   Same was the case for all the New Orleans dock workers, who like the butchers and market vendors, started their day before dawn.  But 11 AM was to early for the heartier afternoon dinner, and way to late to be breakfast.

N_begue_madambegue_kitchen.jpg

Madame Begue cooking brunch in her kitchen.

Madame Begue’s brunch menu was rooted in German cooking, but garnered influence from Creole (New Orleanized Continental French cooking ) and Cajun (country Acadian French cooking -think crawfish instead of shrimp)  cuisine.   The brunch lasted three or four hours and was six courses with chicory coffee.    Her meals were anchored around omelets, as any good brunch should be.   But her most famous brunch dish was Liver a la Begue, a simple prep of calf liver.     Other dishes included fare of New Orleans – turtle soup, artichokes, meat with sauces, and vegetables of the Sicilian vendors of the French Market.

The restaurant’s popularity exploded during the 1884 Cotton Exposition in New Orleans, and tourists flocked to the restaurant to experience this unique second breakfast.    In response to the fame, the Southern Pacific Railroad published “Madame Begue’s Creole Cookery,” with some of her most famous recipes.

liveralabegue.jpg

Liver a la Begue, as served at it’s successor, Tugague’s.

Madame Begue died in 1906 and her restaurant was taken over by her daughter and son- in-law- the Anouilles, who then sold it in 1914 and it became what it is today, Tujague’s, at the corner of Decatur and Madison.    Tujague’s had been a brunch competitor of Begue’s since its inception, their famous dish a boiled beef soup with hot mustard sauce.

So when you brunch over the weekend, make sure you thank the spirit of Madame Begue and not the surly Guy Beringer.

 

Gingersnaps, The German “Roux”

gingersnaps.jpg

 

When you compare German cooking to French cooking, some may say at first glance that French cooking is more sophisticated.     And on one level that may be true.  To be a good French saucier, one has to have a deep level of knowledge about the complex French sauces.   But its’ not as if German food is less flavorful, it’s just less fussy.    With German cooking, as with other things German, it’s all about efficiency.   And one perfect example of that shows up in my family’s German recipes.

Before boullion cubes, the Victorian era cook had to make their own beef stock.    They’d get beef bones, feet, maybe even beef heads from the local butcher,  and boil them to extract the flavor for soups and sauces.    Who has three hours to make your own stock?   My good friend Manolo, from Puerto Rico, makes his own sofrito ahead, which goes in rice and beans, and many other of his family dishes, and puts it in one-use portions in an ice cube tray, which I think is brilliant.  It’s a similar time saving method that still allows for a home cooked meal.

The German Hausfrau has had a similar shortcut to thicken their sauces and soups since the antebellum period in immigrant America.    This particular shortcut is dropping in stale gingersnaps into a sauce, particularly a sweet and sour one, to act as a roux.   In French cooking, a roux is the thickener.  It involves browning flour with butter or another fat to a dark golden color.  The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has.    Creole cooking in the South and particularly Louisiana, uses file, a mixture of ground leaves and spices taken from Native American cooking,  to thicken their standard gumbos.     But the Germans skip all that flour browning and watching by just adding gingersnaps.   The cookies also bring a bit of cloves, ginger, and sweetness to create a tangy sauce.

In my family’s recipes this shows up in the sweet and sour sauce that is served with my great grandmother’s sauerbraten.   Great Grandma Muchorowski might have even used local Over-the-Rhine company, Streitman Biscuits’, gingersnaps in her Sunday Sauerbraten.   Other recipes that pair vinegar and sweetness also incorporate the gingersnap thickening method.  I’ve found old recipes for sweet and sour beef tongue sauce that use this.     Also, very old local German recipes for mock turtle soup incorporate the little cookie as a thickening agent.    A recipe for sweet and sour cabbage soup does similarly.      Lubchow’s in New York City, the longest running German restaurant in the Big Apple, used gingersnaps to thicken their sauerbraten.     Even noted Louisiana Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme, served a roast pork with gingersnap gravy at his restaurant, K-Paul’s.

Not only is this a time saver, it’s also frugality.     It would take a lot of cornstarch to do the same thickening that a few gingersnaps do very quickly.  Leave it to that pfennig pinching Hausfrau to come up with this.   Before commercial gingersnaps from Nabisco, they might use stale lebkucken or gingerbread around for the holidays or over the Winter, which is when these sweet and sour hearty meat recipes are served.   Other older German recipes call for schwartzbrot or black bread crumbles as thickening agent in sauerbraten.      The gingersnap method was so widely used that Good Housekeeping listed 15 gingersnaps as equal to one cup of roux flour.

And the origin of this German roux goes back even further to a  dish from Flanders (the northern European area encompasing France, Belgium and Holland called Carbonnade a la Flamande.    It’s the Germanic answer to the French Boeuf Bourguignon.   Southern German cooking in Swabia and Bavaria use a thickened browne Bruhe or brown broth that’s served over Jaeger schnitzel.

So the next time you have that delicious sauerbraten, thank that nameless Germanic immigrant housewife who invented the GTM – gingersnap thickening method.

 

A Mt. Healthy Chili Parlor Hiding in Plain Sight for Over Fifty Years

a7Ajj.JPG

 

Sometimes you’re turned onto off-the-beaten-path restaurants by friends in the know.    Then there are the rare times when those restaurants find you.   That was the case this afternoon, as my cousin Ken and I were selling our high quality junk at the 127 Garage sale on Hamilton Avenue in Mt. Healthy.

There was a mom and pop restaurant right across the street from our gypsy selling encampment called A & A.  Ken was the first to venture in to see what they had for lunch.  A discreet sign on the front of the building proclaims “Homemade Chili and Special Breakfast.”     As a chili historian I was intrigued.    I must have passed this place a million times as a kid and teenager,  but I had never been inside.   Ken  came back with their menu and said he ordered their pork chop plate and that Orpha, who has been serving there for 30 years, was willing to deliver our orders across the street.    I got the turkey sandwich on rye with a side of house coleslaw.   It was one of the best and generously meated sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.   Ken got two huge pork chops, cole slaw and a heap of hash browns that could have fed an army.

Stepping inside the restaurant is like stepping back in time to the 1960s.     It’s a simple mom and pop jewel that is a welcome oasis from the chains that surround it.   And long before McDonald’s offered breakfast all day, Rallis was doing it – with a side of goetta.   Today, the traffic from the yard sale pickers has given him a lot of business.   About six high backed booths stand in front of a horseshoe shaped counter with swivel stools in the back.    Ms. Orpha Dunnock shouts orders through the pass-through window to the grill, which Rallis mans most days from 7 AM to 2 PM.     If you eat at the counter, Rallis will tell you stories of his native Greece, and all the other chili pioneers, like the Kiradjieffs of Empress Chili that he palled around with back in the day.

 

a7a.JPG

89 year old Angelo Rallis, takes a break from the grill at A & A in Mt. Healthy.

A & A stands for Alexandra and Angelo Rallis, the couple from Kastoria, Greece, (the land of most of the Cincinnati chili pioneers) who have owned it for nearly 50 years, until Alexandra passed away seven years ago.   Since the late 1950s, the couple had served Cincinnati chili, double decker sandwiches, and diner fare.     They came to Cincinnati in 1955, after Angelo worked for 5 years helping the U.S. administer the Marshall Plan in Greece.   After arriving in Cincinnati, he worked for his uncle, Norman Phillip Bazoff, who owned Park Chili in Northside.   That’s where he learned the secret Cincinnati chili recipe that he serves on his cheese coneys, threeways, and chili cheese fries.

Rallis is 89, and says he wants to retire soon.    At this point, why retire.   But if you want a taste of an endangered, but authentic Greek-owned Cincinnati chili parlor, I’d recommend you hurry fast to A & A’s on Hamilton Avenue in Mt. Healthy.    You wont be disappointed.

 

Challah Becomes Soul Food in Cincinnati’s West End

Kenyon-Barr-618.jpgBefore Cincinnati razed the entire Kenyon-Barr West End neighborhood in 1956 in the name of Urban Renewal, they took pics of the wonderful buildings and businesses.   These young boys proudly stand behind the photo marker in front of their neighborhood grocery and confectioner,  not knowing that they will be deported from their homes a few months later.

As a nation, we’re just really starting to acknowledge that most Southern food is descended from slave cooking.      Most of the dishes we characterize as southern, were formulated and perfected by bonded cooks in the plantation kitchen.   The integration of okra, an African native plant, into southern dishes like gumbo, is an example.     First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln didn’t know how to make the Lexington Kentucky favorite beaten biscuits, so she consulted her father’s bonded cook,  Aunt Chaney, for instruction.  Jefferson Davis pie, was invented by a Missouri slave woman named Aunt Jule-Ann.  For decades, no credit in southern cookbooks has been given to these bonded cooks.   But to  this food historian’s delight, their day has come.

A new book came out this week by Michael Twitty, the chief food historian or ‘Revolutionary in Residence,’ at Colonial Williamsburg.   Michael has been doing historic slave cooking demonstrations for the last decade at various Southern historic sites like Chippokes, Middletown, and Great Hopes Plantations.   His new book is  called the Cooking Gene, and he traces his own family’s history from enslavement in the South, through Reconstruction and the Great Migration, with their food stories.  I’m only a few chapters in, and its one of the best food history books I’ve read.

One of Twitty’s earliest stories is his first taste of Jewish food:  ” The kitchen was where I ate my first Jewish food, thanks to my mom, (Patricia Anita Townsend).   Challah, golden, sweet challah, cut into pieces for toast with blackberry jam.”     Ok, maybe it’s not so weird for an African American family to eat Jewish challah bread in a large metropolitan city like Washington, D.C., in the 1970s.     But then he continues with his story: ” In Cincinnati, the Jewish baker was your only option on a Sunday, and that’s where she picked it up.   As soon as my aunt Sheila (“Cookie”) got in from Cincinnati, the first thing to do was make fresh coffee, and open the boxes of pastries and bread from their favorite bakeries back home.”   I realized this story was a rare oral history of  Afro-Jewish fusion food in Cincinnati’s West End.         Twitty’s mom would become an expert in challah braiding and made her own, which I’m sure was fabulous.    At the time local challah was probably made in West End Jewish bakeries with local P & G’s Crisco, an acceptable vegetable based product, that would not put a bakery product that used eggs or milk out of kosher, by mixing with a meat based product like good old fashioned lard.

Twitty’s maternal grandparents, Walter Lee Townsend and Clintonia Hazel Todd, had been part of the post World War II Great Migration of blacks from the South to northern cities.   They migrated from Birmingham, Alabama, first to Cleveland, Ohio, and then to Cincinnati’s West End, where his grandfather was a Pullman porter on the railroads and his other family members took jobs at the local factories.

In 1940, around the time the Townsend family arrived in the West End, 64% of Cincinnati’s black population lived in the West End, in sub neighborhoods like Kenyon-Barr, and Little Buck,  comprising 74% of the West End Population.   The other 25% were Jewish and European immigrants.      The oldest Jewish cemetery west of the Alleghenies still exists in Cincinnati’s West End, the first Jewish enclave of Cincinnati.   The Jewish and black population lived side by side  in the West End, creating wonderful collaboration and cross cultural sharing.    Many of the Jewish entrepreneurs in the area gave employment to their black neighbors, who couldn’t find work in Cincinnati’s still segregated Dixie borderland.

In Cincinnati, we’re just really starting to acknowledge the decimation of Cincinnati’s West End, and it’s affect on the Black Community, as we face the issues of gentrification in another historic neighborhood, Over-the-Rhine, which has recently been a predominantly African-American neighborhood.   By the end of it all, tens of thousands of black and Jewish residents and 700 beautiful historic buildings were eviscerated from the West End.     But this one food story of ‘Soul Food Challah’ speaks to a once beautiful symbiosis that existed in the neighborhood, and that could exist again in our inner city.

Lewisburg Tavern Burgers at Herb and Thelma’s

herbandthelmas.jpg

A vintage shot of the bar at Herb and Thelma’s, which hasn’t changed.

There’s an endangered species of restaurants in our area.   It’s the neighborhood lunch tavern.    Recently, a friend turned me on to a gem of one in the Lewisburg neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky, called Herb and Thelma’s.    They have been known for their burgers since opening in 1939, and are still using the same two lane grill that they used at opening, seasoned over nearly 80 years.

Lewisburg is the hilly neighborhood many have forgotten to the west of I-75 from the Mainstrasse and Pike Street exits.  Historically, it was a neighborhood of slaughterhouses, and the Lewisburg Brewery – now the business of Papas & Sons, who make the local favorite opera cream eggs.    Farmers from deeper in the bluegrass would drive their hogs, sheep, and cattle to Covington, broker a deal with the Lewisburg meatpackers, sell their livestock and spend one night partying in downtown Covington before heading home.

The building that houses Herb and Thelma’s was built before the Civil War as sort of a hall or saloon for the neighborhood.    It sits on a pointed and hilly corner of Pike Street.    There is a basement and subbasement in the well built stone foundation, that owners think has beer tunnels leading to the site of the old Lewisburg Brewery.   Owners recently received a grant and unveiled a mural showing the old Heine’s Social Club, a drinking club with a philanthropic problem, that met at the tavern from the 1940s to the 1980s monthly.    Heine was Henry Boehmker, who started the tavern.  His son and daughter-in-law took over the tavern and it became Herb and Thelma’s.

New owners, Suzanne and Joe Fessler, bought the place from Chip, the grandson of the original founder, two years ago.   But Chip still works Wednesdays, the day I met my friend for lunch.      In his seventies, you can tell he’s in heaven cooking for the lunch crowd, mostly men in their seventies who have been coming to shoot the breeze over a beer and a good hamburger for the last half a century.    There is also a spattering of millennials coming in to start the next generation of neighborhood burger lovers.

 

chip.jpg

Former owner Chip Boehmker, inside Herb and Thelma’s.

When I walked into the tavern, I was greeted by Chip, and told him I was waiting for my buddy.    A cheery man in his seventies waiting for his lunch buddy turned around and asked if I had ever been here before.    Revealing my tavern virginity, he told me how he had been coming here for forty years, and bit of the history of the place and the area.   We talked about the recent hate on Pete Rose, the mayor of Covington, and the outlook of neighboring Ludlow, Kentucky.

Inside the walls are lined with vintage local beer signs and advertisements, and historic photos of the family,  like one of Chip’s parents with a very young Pete Rose, whom they met at a Bob Braun show.     There is a case with an extensive collection of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky beer memorabilia that could rival any museum.

And now the most important part – the food!    Each burger is freshly ground and hand pressed and sandwiched in a fresh buttered bakery bun.      You can get single, double and cheese, with onions and pickles.        The burgers are fresh, juicy, and delicious, cooked to a perfect medium rare, still pink in the center.  Without a fryer, there are no French fries or chicken wings.    But then there are no side salads or cole slaw either.     ‘Appetizers’ include a wide assortment of local and gourmet potato chips in bags at the back of the bar.      As an accompaniment to the burger you can order bean, veggie soup, or chili, which is what they put on their famous cheese coneys.    There is also a grilled fish sandwich, and of course a wide selection of local beers, including Rhinegeist.

burger.jpg

By the time we left, every table in the front room was full.     My local friend tells me that Thursdays the place is packed with golfers from nearby Devou park.      I am definitely a fan now and can’t wait to go back to try the famous cheese coneys.

herbnthelmas-mural1.jpg

The newly revealed mural on the side of Herb and Thelma’s Tavern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belleview Mansion in Newport: Where the Bonded Lumpkins Family Learned How to Cook for Northern Kentuckians

taylormansion

General James Taylor’s Belleview estate in Newport, Kentucky, about 1850.

 

Over the weekend I was looking for the original deed to a family farm in northern Kentucky.   To do that you have to travel to the Campbell County Records Bureau in Alexandria, Kentucky, while only 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, is out in farm country.  The records are very old – some dating back to the time when Kentucky had just become a state and money transferred was still being recorded in British pounds and shillings.   Another thing you see, that you don’t encounter in Cincinnati early deed records, is bill of sales, emancipations, and inventories of bonded humans – slaves.

These records are laden with names and descriptions and monetary values.     The wording is  incredibly descriptive and sometimes harrowing.     I found a bill of sale in 1813  for $785 for slaves Aggy and her child, and Betsie, bought by  General William Lytle, after whom Lytle Park and One Lytle Place are named in Cincinnati, from the estate of Washington Berry.    Aggy’s other child, James, was bought by Alfred Sanford for $197.    I found another bill of sale in 1827 describing a 16 year old slave, Jacob,  who is “club footed having been injured in his infancy by being burnt in the fire”, still valued at $250.

One good story that comes out of these slaves of Campbell County Kentucky is that of Lumpkins family, former slaves of General James Taylor.    When he died in 1848, Taylor’s will stated that all his 60 slaves would be emancipated when they were age 30 and be given 25 acres of land each to own.      Obtaining property from the Taylor was difficult to do before Emancipation.    The former slaves would have had no representation.   So six members of the Lumpkins family, who were former slaves of the Taylors, brought suit in 1889 and won their land by 1895.

Burrell Lumpkin, the head of the Lumpkin family, was born in Caroline County, Virginia, and had become a slave of General Taylor’s father, when Taylor Sr., bought his parents from a planter there named Lacy.  When his father died, Burrell and his parents, became property of General Taylor in his will.   General Taylor allowed Burrell Lumpkin to ‘marry’ another bonded human in his ownership, Susan, who had already had one child Nathan, by a white man, perhaps a member of the Taylor family.    Burrell ‘adopted’ Nathan into his family as his own, and with Susan, had 9 children – 7 more sons and two daughters.

So before they got their promised land from the estate nearly 40 years later, I wondered what profession these now emancipated African-Americans would have had available.    Most commonly they became general laborers, draymen (transporters of goods), railroad workers, and porters.     Some lucky ones got jobs at steel factories in Newport, and even luckier ones became cooks.

One of Burrell’s sons, John Lumpkin, was listed as a cook at the prominent Day House in Covington, on the corner of Washington and Pike Streets, in the 1870s, just after the Civil War.     He would have had a prior knowledge of cooking to get a job at such a prominent hotel.     As a slave of the largest landowner in Northern Kentucky, who owned a huge mansion and entertained political and social elites of the area, he would have been a member of the large slave staff who would create these elegant dinners for guests.   As a young boy at the time, he would have been much like Peter Fossett, a former slave of Jefferson’s at Monticello, who also came to Cincinnati after emancipation and started his own catering business, on the French methods of cookery he learned as a boy at Monticello.   An 1847 article said  the Taylor ‘Belleview’ Estate was “one of the most beautiful and costly in Kentucky, and has long been distinguished for excellent hospitality.”

The Day House, where John Lumpkin cooked, had formerly been known as Drover’s Hotel, owned by William Ashbrook since the 1830s.   The property could accommodate up to 100 guests.    It was the last stop for farmers from deeper in the Bluegrass who were droving their hogs, cattle, and sheep to markets in Northern Kentucky, particularly in Lewisburg neighborhood of Covington, where the slaughterhouses were.   The farmers would come in to town, make their deals, and then spend one night ‘on the town,’ partying and enjoying the nightlife of Covington, and then return.   They stayed and had their meals at the Drover’s Inn.    John’s experience with cooking large dinners at General Taylor’s estate would have come in handy to feed large groups of travelers at the hotel.

Since the Lumpkins family already had a surname in bondage, we are gifted with the rare opportunity to connect a former slave cook, James Lumpkin, to his former employer’s estate.   The Lumpkin name came from Burrell’s parents, who were probably owned by one of the Lumpkin planters in Caroline County, Virginia, and given that name at time of sale to distinguish them and their ‘increase’ from other family slaves from the next owner.    Unfortunately, what we don’t have is a Lumpkin family cookbook that would give us dishes formulated and made at Belleview, which probably ascended from dishes created in Virginia.   But the truth is that many of the best recipes and cooking in Northern Kentucky were formulated by hundreds of unnamed, former bonded humans, both men and women.