Back to Homepage of Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma

Online Exhibit: Cooking and Food Preparation: International Flavors


Always prone to experimentation and trying to find new ways to make camping and outdoor activities enjoyable, Kephart personally tested a variety of products. This included yerba maté, a South American beverage steeped in a decorated gourd and consumed with a spoonlike straw called a bombilla.

Having lived in Italy, the possibilities of including pasta in the camp menu particularly appealed to Kephart. His correspondence on the subject recalls fond memories of his years in Europe.

Yerba Mate Gourd
Letter dated May 4, 1919

Bryson City, N.C.
May 4, 1919.

Mr. Charles Stanley Jacob.
New York.

Dear Sir:-

I received the sample pound of TERBA MATE that you sent me, and have been trying it.

I had often read of mate, but this is the first I ever saw. It is an interesting product, and I want to try it further before writing it up, which I shall do in due time.

The taste, although not so pleasant as Asiatic tea, on first acquaintance, is not disagreeable. One might soon get to liking the slight bitterness, as he does that of grape fruit or the marmalade made from bitter oranges. I like mate best when steeped four minutes in a tea ball and then flavored with sugar and lemon juice.

It does not keep me awake when drunk at night, whereas tea or coffee would do so. When made strong, or drunk in considerable quantity, it stimulates my heart and pulse to more vigorous beating. Neither tea nor coffee have any noticeable affect on the circulation, in my case.

Probably I will have inquiries as to where mate can be bought at retail, and the price. Please let me know about this.

Thanking you for letting me try the beverage, and for your pleasant letter accompanying the sample, I remain

Yours very truly,

Letted dated July 19, 1919.

July 19, 1919.

Mr. Augustus Frank,
Rome, Italy.

Dear Mr. Frank:-

Your letter revives old memories, and very pleasant ones indeed, of vacation tramps in the Apennines and in the Alps of what was then, but is happily no longer, Italia Irredenta.

You are quite right about the supremacy of Italian cookery, as practiced in the homes of the people, though it is something far above what ordinary tourists are likely to enjoy. The art of modern cookery was born in Italy, and introduced in France by the Italian Catherine de' Medici, and owes its excellence mainly to chefs who were of Italian origin or education.

When I was living in Florence (1884-86) with the late Willard Fiske, we had a cook, Martino, whose dishes surpassed anything else I have ever eaten at home or abroad. And it was not only in formal dinners that he excelled, but in plain dishes as well. His polenta, for example, seasoned by some secret of his own, was the best thing made from Indian meal that I ever tasted (and I have spent years in our own South, which is supposed to have nothing to learn in that line). Martino's fame soon spread abroad, and he became chef to Lord Dufferin, Viceroy of India.

Your reference to different ways of serving pasta makes my mouth water. If it is not too much trouble for you to send me detailed recipes for some of these dishes, I would like to publish them for the benefit of American campers. Just how do you use oil as a base for minestrone? And will you kindly give me the address of some firm in the United States from whom we can buy the preserved meats made by Italians in this country?

I would be pleased to hear more about your trips and your camping methods. Autres pays, autres moeurs; but each of us may learn something useful from the other.

With best wishes, sincerely yours,

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