13 February 2010

The Bordello Cookbook

Jo Foxworth has written about women who run business, in fact, she has run her own business. This kind of research led her to think about some of the first business run by women. The fact is many of the first women-owned businesses were bordellos. Foxworth combined a history of these “houses of ill repute” with a collection of recipes that they just might have cooked in The Bordello Cookbook.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of anyone who has actually found a “cookbook” used at an official bordello, so Foxworth brought in Jeanne Bauer to help with the recipes that might have been served at such bordellos.

In many cities, the bordello was indeed a house. These houses served as a type pf gentleman’s club, providing a place to socialize, smoke cigars, grab a bite to eat, shower and shave and yes, have sex. The kitchens in many of these establishments provided food as readily as the women provided sex.

What would a bordello kitchen be without oysters?

Oyster Purses

1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked turkey
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked ham
1 tablespoon, Dijon-style mustard
6 scallions, long green tops set aside, white part finely chopped
24-shucked oysters

Top each slice of turkey with a slice of ham, brush lightly with mustard, and scatter finely chopped scallions over the top. Place an oyster in the center of each, bring the sides up to form a purse. Tie each purse with a long green strip of scallion. Place the oysters in a glass dish and microwave on High for one minute, or until heated through.

Most bordellos didn’t have microwaves in the day, so I imagine these were just popped in the oven to warm up.

While we are not condoning visits to a bordello, we do endorse these easy to make appetizers.


  1. Pasta Putanesca was named because in Italy the prostitutes or "putas" would put a dish of it in their window to entice men to come in for a bite to eat and pleasures of the flesh. As has been said before "once one hunger is filled the other hunger longs for fufilling."

    1. First, forgive the reply years later, but...

      this is simply not true, as enticing as the story is. A "puttanesca" is simply "a mess", something thrown together haphazardly without much preparation. And when you look at a good puttanesca, it consists of whatever is in the larder, no fresh ingredient in sight: a tin of tomatoes, anchovies, olives, some wine, all things which can be hastily grabbed from the larder.

      Etymologically, think of the whore in this word as you would of the word slut in antiquated English: the word conjures up someone messy and uncouth, just like the dish the chef can throw together when he's run out of fresh ingredients for the night, the puttanesca.


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