John and Frances Glessner were among the most generous and loyal supporters of the Chicago Symphony since the Orchestra's founding in 1891. They extended that generosity into their own home in the Prairie Avenue District, and Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, their families, along with members of the Orchestra and visiting soloists, were frequent guests, especially during the holiday season (see here).
Frances meticulously kept journals — detailing menus, decorations, guests and seating arrangements — providing a glimpse into the family’s entertaining. According to these journals, Frances often served her famous fudge brownies. Here’s her recipe:
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate—melted
1/2 pound butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix sugar, vanilla, and eggs. To this add butter and chocolate melted together (in double boiler). Fold in flour. Then add nuts. Pour into buttered pan (9-by-12 inches). Bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool before cutting.
Another favorite recipe — received from Rose Fay, Thomas’s wife — was for a punch specially named for the Orchestra's founder and first music director. Frances recorded it in one of her “menu books,” where she would document menus served at dinner parties and other events, occasionally also including recipes. (One former resident of Prairie Avenue recalled that the punch "pack[ed] a wallop.")
Theodore Thomas Punch
1/4 Moselle (a light, Rhine wine)
The fractions are proportions to be used in mixing any quantity of the punch, rather than fractions of one wine bottle.
Both recipes appear in Carol Callahan’s 1993 Prairie Avenue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from Prominent Nineteenth-Century Families.
Special thanks to William Tyre, executive director and curator at Glessner House.
This article also appears here.