We talked recently about the history of Cohen E. Williams’ idea of starting a test kitchen. He realized that he had developed a loyal customer base for self-rising flour and corn meal, but knew there were many undiscovered uses for these convenient products in addition to biscuits and cornbread. In 1952, Cohen decided to start a test kitchen and hired Alice Jarman to be the first director.
Alice grew up on the family farm in Middle Tennessee. After majoring in home economics at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, she worked in the Midwest for a power company and later a major flour company. Delighted by the idea of moving back home, she accepted the challenge of starting The Martha White test kitchen.
Her first order of business was to develop more recipes using self-rising flour and corn meal. She soon had a delicious collection of recipes to share, perfect for pancakes, waffles, muffins, dumplings, cobblers and cakes.
Before the days of cooking shows on television, Alice and other home economists, located in cities over the Southeast, presented cooking schools to adult and youth groups. Recipe leaflets from home economics classes, home demonstrations and 4-H clubs were distributed to the cooking school attendees.
Alice’s charming personality and free spirit made her a favorite among Southern cooks of all ages. Her philosophy of developing basic recipes using ingredients that were available in most Southern pantries propelled her recipe leaflets to become collectors’ items.
It was my privilege to work with Alice for five years before she retired. I have to say it was an absolute joy and a wonderful learning experience.
Do you remember getting Martha White recipe leaflets or winning a 4-H baking contest sponsored by Martha White? If so, I would love to hear you story.