Jessie DeBoth and The Detroit News cooking school

Detroit News readers swarm outside the Masonic Temple in 1930 to attend the Detroit News Cooking School featuring Jesse DeBoth.

“International cooking authority.” “One of the most popular drawing cards Detroit has ever known.” “Greatest feminine expert on cookery this side of the Atlantic”

These were some of the accolades given by The Detroit News writers to Jessie DeBoth who presided at the annual cooking school sponsored by the newspaper. These events took place at the Masonic Temple where the stage was turned into a fully equipped kitchen facility.

A program from the April 1929 “Cooking and Home-Makers Schools” introduced representatives from The Detroit News, including the Woman’s Editor, Household Editor, Interior Decoration and Hostess Departments, as well as the presiding hostess of the Detroit New Century Club. Music was provided by The Gypsy Barons Orchestra.

Sign outside the Masonic Temple promotes The Detroit News Homemakers School.

Some of the recipes DeBoth demonstrated were printed in the program, including homemade strawberry ice cream and a tea hy-ball (just tea and ginger ale). The last item was a Laundry Demonstration which promised “whiter washing with less work”. It involved soaking clothes overnight; then two hot rinses and one cold rinse.

DeBoth’s presentations were a mixture of cooking demonstration, handy hints, flamboyant entrances (she would come out waving a sifter, calling, “YoHo”), and giveaways, amateur shows, musical performances and singalongs. She claimed her shows ran the entire range of homemaking except how to “wind the clock and put the cat out.” She even gave advice on teeth, “If you’re not true to them, they’ll be false to you.” Another piiece of advice: “Great men have said that more marriages are ruined by bad cooking than through any other cause.”

She was always immaculately clothed, wearing a new outfit every day during the four-day program to prove, she said, that women can look like ladies of leisure and still cook up a storm.

A newspaper article described her program: “She teaches and jokes and performs tricks with foods that are well nigh magic. She sees to it that her audience takes part in each program so there is never a dull moment nor an uninteresting one. To go to a DeBoth school is to receive a short but sure course in domestic science the pleasantest way under the sun.”

The crowds were mostly women although there was always a “White Elephant” session to which women could bring the men in their lives. Masonic Temple was filled year after year at these four-day sessions. Admission was free in the early days but in an effort to cut down on the long lines, DeBoth began charging 30-40 cents admission. Even then, the theater was filled to capacity. Thousands were turned away and on at least one occasion, lines were four abreast, 2 1/2 blocks long outside the auditorium. This was before the days of television and talk shows.

The stage of the Masonic Temple was turned into a complete kitchen and dining room for the show.

      In addition to the crowds she attracted from Metro Detroit and beyond, city leaders and celebrities came to learn and be entertained. Her guests included sports broadcaster Ty Tyson, and Detroit Tiger Charlie Gehringer, Gov. Harry F. Kelly and Detroit Mayor Edward Jeffries.

The prizes and gifts given away were a big part of the attraction. DeBoth would give away all the meals she prepared, as well as the utensils. Often the guests had to perform for them by singing or dancing. One evening, she picked a police officer from the audience and they danced the cake walk. On another evening, she gave dinner away to the fattest woman in the house. Several volunteered. Then she gave each one her own cook book which would teach them how to reduce. When she offered a prize to the tallest, thinnest old maid in the house, they hesitated, so she said, “I’m an old maid and I don’t mind a bit”. She was over six feet tall.

Twenty-five baskets of food were given away each session as well as items donated by businesses. The 1929 program lists 30 contributing companies. A sampling of these items includes an “iceless refrigerator”(1929), washing machines, electric ranges, rugs, dishes, flowers, roasters, ironers, waterless cookers, and Hoover sweepers.

DeBoth, left, loads down a new bride and groom with gifts during her 1941 show.

      During the war years, 50 baskets of food were distributed and her cooking was geared to the war effort with its rationing. She said that the woman who feeds her family nutritiously is “just as patriotic as the riveter or shell filler. Well fed people maintain production and morale.”

Some of the recipes featured in the April 10, 1929 program:

Mother Hubbard Macaroons

1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups Mapl-Flake
l/2 cup Ralston
l/4 cup milk
2 eggs
l/2 cup cocoanut
l/2 cup nuts
l cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Method: Mix all ingredients and drop from teaspoon on greased tins, allowing room for spreading. Bake in quick oven.

Farina Crisps

Prepare the Farina as for a breakfast cereal. Pour into a shallow pan that has been moistened with cold water. Chill, then cut into squares. Dip each square into beaten egg and very fine bread crumbs, and fry in deep fat or saute in a hot frying pan. Serve with syrup, honey or marmalade.

Meat Loaf or Ring

1 pound pork, choppped
2 eggs
1 pound beef, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups unsweetened apple sauce
4 cups cracker crumbs, rolled fine
4 tablespoons green peppers, chopped

Method: Beat eggs very well, add other ingredients and mix. Pack into ring mold which has been well greased, and sprinkle with cracker crumbs, finely ground. Bake for one hour at 375 degrees F. Recipe for filling center given

Lines to get into the free show grew so long that an admission fee was charged in an attempt to keep down the crowds. It didn’t work.

(This story was compiled using clips and photo files from The Detroit News Library.)

By Kay Houston / The Detroit News