From the archives: A recipe for success
For decades, Elon students learned “the practical and theoretical knowledge of the principles governing cookery” as part of the home economics program.
By Roselee Papandrea
When Edith Brannock ’39 was a student at Elon, it was not unusual for women to pick a major that would teach them how to manage a household on a budget, host tea parties, design and sew clothes, and care for the sick.
Brannock, a descendant of the Rev. James O’Kelly, founder of the Christian Church that established Elon College, learned that and more as vice president of Elon’s Home Economics club, which was open to home economics and art students. She hosted many social events, including several for her sorority, Tau Zeta Phi. Home economics, or domestic sciences, ultimately became her life’s work, and after graduation in 1939, Brannock began her career as a vocational home economics teacher in Alamance County, North Carolina.
She taught younger students for 20 years before following in the footsteps of her father, Ned Faucette Brannock, an 1899 graduate of Elon, and a much-loved chemistry professor who taught at Elon for more than 50 years. In 1962, almost half a century after Elon’s first home economics department was organized by Bessie Urquhart, Edith Brannock joined Elon’s faculty as an assistant professor of home economics. She also briefly taught child psychology courses.
The first mention of the domestic sciences was in the 1914-15 Bulletin of Elon College. The two-year course of studies focused on providing “practical and theoretical knowledge of the principles governing cookery.” The description of the course of study indicates it was designed for women. “It is essential that every homemaker know how to prepare wholesome food,” the bulletin states. “This she is better qualified to do after she understands food values and can prepare a well-balanced meal.” The home economics department was located in a few different places on campus while the program existed, including the basement of the gymnasium-dormitory (where the Caroline E. Powell building now stands), the ground floor of the Young Ladies’ Cooperative Hall (now Sloan Hall) and the third floor of Alamance building.
In the early 1960s, women majoring in home economics received hands-on experience by living in a practice house on West College Avenue for six weeks. The house was formerly the Elon College Community Church parsonage and was moved when a new church was built on South Williamson Avenue. The house was used for the first time during fall 1960, and Mary G. Butler was the faculty member in charge. Students lived in the residence with a housemother and took turns as cook, housekeeper and hostess. One of the requirements was inviting guests over for weekly meals. They were not allowed to exceed a budget of 75 cents per day per person during the first three weeks and not more than 95 cents per day per person the last three weeks of the course. Brannock replaced Butler in 1962.
The faculty decided to discontinue the home economics major in 1968, according to faculty meeting minutes taken Oct. 11, 1968. From that point, students were able to take the courses—six were offered—as electives only. Brannock taught many of those classes until May 1980, when she retired due to the phasing out of the home economics courses. But even after retirement, Brannock continued supporting Elon and offered her skills planning successful gatherings many times as an active member of the alumni association. She was responsible for getting many of her classmates together for the 60th reunion party in 1999.
In September 2013, Brannock donated a collection of recipes to the Belk Library Archives and Special Collections. The recipes range from a variety of festive punches to salads, side dishes, main courses and desserts. Here are two recipes from her collection that still would make perfect accompaniments to any holiday meal.
Holiday Style Potatoes
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- ½ cup hot milk
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. each chopped parsley, pimiento
- 1 tsp. grated onion
- Green pepper rings
Beat potatoes until light and fluffy. Add other ingredients and serve in mounds in green pepper rings. Variation: May add ½ cup grated cheese for different flavor.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Put in top of double boiler
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp. ginger
- 1 ½ cup strained pumpkin
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- 2/3 cup milk
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
Mix well and when hot add to 3 egg yolks slightly beaten. Return to double boiler, stir and cook. Measure ½ cup cold water, add 1 tbsp. gelatin and when soft add to hot pumpkin mixture. Mix thoroughly and cool. When it begins to stiffen, beat 3 egg whites until stiff, beat in ½ cup sugar and fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill in refrigerator. Cover with whipped cream for serving.