Cooking with Tasha Tudor: Apple Crisp

   Hi there friends!~
         And here we are, ready for another Cooking with Tasha Tudor post! This one is special because we’re not just cooking with Tasha Tudor, we are cooking with Mary Mason Campbell.
    In the late 60s/early 70s, Tasha and one of her friends came together and put out four books, all about New England cooking and culture and traditions. The first in this series was “The New England Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook”, and it is a jewel of a little book. It follows the seasons and gives little stories and recipes for special things to cook through the year from a New Englander point of view. Mason Campbell did the writing and recipe collecting (although she also says ‘receipts’ like Tasha, and I have no doubt they inspired each other) and Tasha illustrated.
   The first recipe— receipt– I tried, was the apple crisp dessert. It was a different recipe than I’m used to making— and included the addition of lemon rind and juice, which gave the whole dessert a tart and fresh taste which was really good!

   The whole dish was simple and easy to make, especially if you’ve got several apples on hand, which is very likely this time of year! I baked it in a pie pan, with the apples sliced on bottom and the ‘crisp’ just dumped on top. Its not a picturesque dish when it comes out of the oven, lol, but it’s nothing a dollop of whipped cream cant make fancy, and is good to eat both warm or cold!

   The book this recipe came from, and all of the Mason Campbell/Tudor books, are now out of print. BUT, you can find used copies pretty easily on Amazon (thats how I got mine.) There is also The Butt’ry Shelf Almanac and Kitchen Gardens, and A Basket of Herbs. It appears that both women had a lot in common and enjoyed working with each other, and I love the idea of their finding each other in 1960s New England (or earlier, I’m not sure when they met) and finding a kindred spirit.

   Mary Mason Campbell was a fascinating woman in her own right, and I relate to her because she was also originally from the prairie, having been born in Nebraska.

   I found her obituary online and thought I’d share it with you here. I think its remarkable that Tasha Tudor is actually named in the obit, along with only Mary’s parents and husband. Here is the dynamic biography of Mary, as written in her obituary:

  CAMPBELL, MARY MASON of Scituate died December 28, 2007. She was the widow of Douglas Campbell to whom she had been married for 52 years at the time of his death.

   Mrs. Campbell was born in Bloomfield, Nebraska, a daughter of Edgar H. and Margaret D. Mason. After graduation from Yankton College, she lived in Minneapolis, Chicago (where she was Executive Secretary to the Chairman of Pure Oil Company), Washington, DC, Salisbury, NH and Wickford and Scituate, RI where she made her home since 1971.

   She was the author of three books, The New England Buttry Shelf Cookbook, The New England Buttry Shelf Almanac, Betty Crockers Kitchen Gardens and co-author of A Basket of Herbs. All were illustrated by her dear friend Tasha Tudor. Mary was an accomplished weaver, quilter, rug hooker, an ardent gardener, gourmet, world traveler, Francophile, and a lecturer on herbs and Thomas Jefferson.

   Mrs. Campbell was a member of First Baptist Church in America, Salisbury Congregational Church, Providence Art Club, Squantum Association, Chilton Club, and National Herb Society and its New England unit.

  She is survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and England.

    After reading the obituary, I realized that she and Tasha passed away within 6 months of each other, as Tasha died in June 2008. It also reveals that at about the same period of time Tasha moved from the New Hampshire home she raised her family in to Vermont, Mary also made a big move and moved to Rhode Island. Evidently Rhode Island was special to Mary’s heart, as she and her husband had loving restored “an acorn-sized fisherman’s cottage” there. The home was built in 1802, and I am so curious to know if it is still there! I’m sure it was so sweet and snug, and right near the water. What a special place to retire to!

   The little glimpses of Mary from the ‘about the author’ section of the books and this obituary reveals a woman who was interested and passionate about so many things, and many of them where skills or knowledge from the past. I can only imagine the wonderful conversations she would have had with Tasha…..and perhaps one day with a cup of tea in hand they decided ‘we should write a book!”

   I would love to learn more about her, but there doesnt’ seem to be a lot out there on her. But she sounds wonderful, and I would have loved to have been friends with her. What I can do, though, is be inspired by Mary and Tasha— both women who whole-heartedly and passionately followed their interests and made unique lives for themselves. They certainly were not following the trends of the times with their persuits— weaving and rug hooking and expertise on Thomas Jefferson were not the hobbies du jour in the 1960s! But I totally understand….and have fallen down many of those same rabbit holes myself!

And so, I look forward to trying more recipes from Mary and Tasha, and enjoying their books! If you ever come across any of their books, I highly suggest snapping them up! They are absolute treasures!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest installment! And look for news coming about my big shop update for CHRISTMAS art! I have new original paintings, prints and cards coming!~! Can’t wait to share!

Thanks so much, and come back again soon!
And remember–
Take Joy!~

2 thoughts on “Cooking with Tasha Tudor: Apple Crisp

  1. Òhhhh, I love Apple Crisp!! Your finished serving looks heavenly. I am palnnng to make the September receipt, out of the Butt'ry Shelf Almanac, for apple cranberry crisp as soon as I see cranberries in our grocery stores. It sounds delicious and the cranberries will add another layer of flavor to enjoy as well.I am sure that Tasha and Mary must have had wonderful discussions about various projects and the pros and cons of keeping old ways alive and present in their lives. There is something reassuring to me about old tried and true recipes that keep me connected to the wisdom of women who made life rich and full of good things when life had fewer luxuries and conveniences available to most people. In a small way, successful and satisfying recipes allow us to keep connected to those days when women thought differently about cooking and lifestyle. A dish of delicious apple crisp, warm from the oven, is perfect for a day when you need a bit of love from women of your family who might have cooked up something equal or similar. Besides, anything apple is going to make me happy!!


  2. What a delight to hear of Mary and their acorn-sized cottage! I can just imagine it, maybe a bit like a Hobbit home? I have apples & am so glad to be baking now that the weather is cooler.


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