10 September 2009

Purefoy Hotel Cookbook

I grew up in a small town in Alabama. Fine dinning was the Dairy Queen. Yet, hovering in the air was a remembrance of one of the best restaurants in America. Just twenty five miles up the road in Talledega, was the home of the Purefoy Hotel, founded in the 1920's. Sold in 1944, the hotel was razed in 1961. Fortunately for us, in 1938, Eva Purefoy put together a spiral bound cookbook of recipes from the hotel and various household hints that made the hotel run smoothly.

I never had the opportunity to eat at The Purefoy Hotel, but the memory lingers in the air. Everyone that ever ate at the Purefoy can wax poetic on the food. Dinner was served “family style, with everyone crowded around a table with a starched white tablecloth that was ladened with food.

An everyday dinner at the Purefoy included:

Baked Chicken
Turnip Greens
Creamed Irish Potatoes
Candied Yams
Macaroni and Cheese
Escalloped Oysters
A Good Rump Roast or Home Baked Ham
Fresh Spinach
English Peas
Cranberry Relish
Homemade Hot Rolls
Corn Muffins
Creamed Chicken or Chicken Croquettes
Fruit Salad
Cabbage Slaw
Lemon Pie or Boiled custard
Tea or Milk

For Thanksgiving another 10 to 20 dished were added. I’m really sorry I missed it! But you can recapture a bit of the charm with this recipe for their famous oysters.

Delicious Scalloped Oysters

1 pint of fresh oysters, out a layer of cracker crumbs in the bottom of a baking dish, then a layer of oysters, sprinkle pepper, salt and butter.
Cook 1 cup of finely cut celery 20 minutes and mix with each layer of oysters. Repeat until dish is 2/3 full, cover top with cracker crumbs.
Pour enough rich chicken broth over this to moisten the crackers well. If broth is well seasoned no salt or pepper is needed.
I always roast my chicken with a little celery and onion –1 medium onion, 3 stalks celery for each hen.
The oysters should be fixed and let the hot broth stand on them 5 minutes before baking. Bake in a hot oven about 20 minutes, till well set and light brown.
Beat 1 egg thoroughly and pour over top and brown well. Serve piping hot. Do not crumble crackers too fine.

Clearly, the oysters are better than the writing of the recipe! One can tell that the oysters were made every day, so the recipe was second nature to Eva. To actually explain how to make the oysters, led to rather convoluted instructions. This is definitely a recipe that needs to be read before making.

While the hotel has been gone for decades but the recipes live on in the Purefoy Hotel Cookbook. A cookbook that is still in print, with older copies being quite collectible. Many a book dealer wondered why people are out there looking for a spiral bound cookbook from a long closed hotel. While most people think of Talladega as another stop in the NASCAR circuit, many people remember it as the beginning of fine dining in Alabama.


  1. We have been looking for this cookbook for awhile. Do you know anywhere where a copy could be purchased?

  2. I mistakenly loaned out two copies of the cookbook to neighbors who moved and did not return them!!! DO NOT LOAN OUT THIS COOKBOOK!!!!You have been warned!! I ate at the hotel one time, and you had to starve yourself for three days to appreciate what they brought you!!!! Cheers!


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