Clementine Paddleford's high-flying, deep-sea culinary adventures
December 29, 2019 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Clementine Paddleford was the Nellie Bly of culinary journalism, a go-anywhere, taste-anything, ask-everything kind of reporter who traveled more than 50,000 miles a year in search of stories in a day when very few food editors strayed far from their desks. She went to sea on the submarine Skipjack to see what sailors ate, rode the Katy railroad in the Midwest to see what its passengers were served and flew to London to attend a luncheon given at the Guildhall to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But mainly [...] she poked into home and restaurant kitchens in almost every corner of the United States, building up a picture of American regional cooking in the 1950s. Rediscovering culinary pioneer Clementine Paddleford (Chicago Tribune).

Clementine Paddleford – An American Original (The Culinary Cellar)
Just hearing the name Clementine Paddleford conjures up all kinds of thoughts of what she would be like, and it’s probably pretty close as what you would imagine. Clementine was born in Kansas in 1898. She lived on a 260-acre farm and rode a horse to school. Clementine may have been born and raised on a farm, but she grew up to explore the world, and fortunately for us, specifically the culinary world. She studied journalism at Kansas State and New York University, and moved into the writer’s life in 1936 at the New York Herald Tribune. Clementine quickly became a household name with her intensively researched food articles. She was well ahead of her time, reporting on regional cuisine, traveling over 50,000 miles a year in search of stories and recipes. Clementine went to sea in the submarine Skipjack just to see what sailors ate, and flew to London to attend a luncheon in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Clementine Paddleford: The Badass Lady Pilot Who Revolutionized the Art of Food Writing (Mentalfloss)
It was March 26, 1960, and after a year of wrangling, the U.S. Navy had finally given the 61-year-old journalist permission to board the Skipjack. Now she was in the submarine’s capsule kitchen, a cape around her shoulders and a notebook in hand, scoping out the 54-square-foot room where cooks prepared nearly 300 meals a day for the crew. They flurried about, making strawberry shortcake, prime rib, and endless pots of coffee from ingredients compressed to save space. Though she was no stranger to unusual kitchens, the endeavor was nerve-racking. Paddleford would later write that as she boarded the ship loaded with torpedoes, she’d been “clothed in gooseflesh.”

But she hadn’t worked so hard just to walk away empty-handed—she’d get her story, along with a brownie recipe that could feed 80. Whether Paddleford was inspecting a kitchen at the bottom of the ocean or piloting a plane across the country in search of new delicacies, she was a fearless pioneer, intent on uncovering tales that would resonate with the American public.

How America Ate: Clementine Paddleford and America's Pies (Serious Eats - Sweets)
Clementine Paddleford is largely forgotten now but in the mid-twentieth century she was a groundbreaking writer, traveling the country in her self-piloted plane as the food editor of the New York Herald Tribune. Her 1961 opus, How America Eats, is a 450-page recipe-book-cum-travelogue, taking readers through barn raising parties in Iowa, clambakes in Maine, and chic cocktail parties in New York. Even today, with food trends deviating somewhat from Scotch Broth, Pine Bark Stew, and Orange Dumplings, the recipes hold up remarkably well.

There are an astonishing 61 separate pie recipes in How America Eats. The names themselves conjure up a nostalgic longing for the good ole days: Popham Shrimp, Mother Bowles's custard, Hoosier "punkin," lime chiffon. Recipes are arranged by state, and are introduced with details from interviews and meals Paddleford shared with home cooks throughout the country.

In Honor of Clementine Paddleford: Joe Froggers (The Found Recipe Box)
Paddleford is credited with changing the way America wrote about food. Before her, there were no articles to accompany recipes in newspapers; it was just a list of ingredients and instructions. Today, that might be hard to conceive of because we are surrounded by The Food Network and people, such as Anthony Bourdain, who bring us cooking stories from exotic places across the globe. But Paddleford was truly a pioneer in this type of food reporting. She connected with her readers in a remarkable way and at the time of her death in 1967, it was estimated that she had 12 million readers.

Kansaspedia -- Clementine Paddleford biography

Clementine Paddleford: Clementine Writes -- Kansas State University Archives & Manuscripts - Exhibits -- overview.

More reading: Clementine Paddleford on (author search; text search -- both include results to borrow.

See also: Clementine Paddleford blog, a collection of citations, articles, and recipes.
posted by filthy light thief (7 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Woah, what an awesome post.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2019

damnit, I have work to do. bah! (This looks seriously great and how much fun would it be to have a convo with her.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2019

Thank you so much. My rainy afternoon at home is all sorted now.
posted by pipoquinha at 12:30 PM on December 29, 2019

Thank you for this post. I was on a culinary reading kick a long while back, and read part of "How America Eats" in the library. I loved the book, but forgot the author and could never find it again--until you reminded me today of Clementine Paddleford. I'm off to the library now with a excited smile on my face.
posted by Inkslinger at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow, I really want to make that Boston Marlborough pie.
posted by suelac at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2019

From the Mentalfloss article:
Growing up on a farm in Stockdale, Kansas, taught Paddleford to appreciate the difficulties of ushering food from field to plate—if you craved pork, you needed to kill one of the pigs out back—and her mother instilled a strong work ethic, cautioning, “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
That fantastic line has bounced around the internet for a while, and it was used as an opening quote to For My Daughter, a poem by Sarah McMane.

Bonus Paddleford from Smelling Salts Journal -- Advent Day 4, 2019: Make Clementine’s Crullers and Write a Holiday Haiku
posted by filthy light thief at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2019

*This is good*
posted by mightshould at 3:18 PM on December 30, 2019

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