Searching for Cas Walker’s rotisserie sauce

Beth KinnaneDowntown, Our Town Stories

I have never received as much correspondence on one story as I did my recent column about Cumberland Avenue, and next to that, the one about the demise of Smoky Mountain Market No. 1.

Both elicited a variety of memories via email, but common in both were the memories about food at places long since gone. I received several inquiries asking me personally for the chili recipe for the Smoky Mountain Market hot dogs. I don’t have it, but I am sure someone does: whoever you are, open a hot dog truck, already!

Another email I received inquired about a recipe that came from the old Cas Walker’s stores. Dear reader has fond memories of the barbecue sauce used in the stores’ delis for their rotisserie chickens, writing, “I was a small child at that time, but I remember the sauce being totally different from any I’ve run across since. I’ve tried to search vintage or heritage recipe sites in hopes that someone might have posted it, but so far, I’ve come up empty.”

I did do a little looking online myself, to no avail, but then remembered a Knoxville cookbook my grandmother gave me decades ago. Unfortunately, this one is too old to have anything from the Ole Coon Hunter’s days. It is, however, an interesting peek into Knoxville history.

The Knoxville Cook Book-1900 I have is a 1957 reprint of the original produced by the Women’s Building Board of Knoxville in 1901, reedited with embellishments by Dr. Frank T. Rogers. In addition to the recipes, menus and household tips provided by Knoxville’s Who’s Who at the turn of the last century, he included maps of what was the city at the time, including a directory of its 32,000-plus citizens.

I can attest to the incompleteness of the directory, interesting as it is, because only one of my many ancestors that lived in or near downtown then is listed. I also found it interesting that the book jacket has “cookbook” as one word instead of two, as the book is titled.

But more interesting, or weird, are the contents. First of all, Knoxvillians had quite the appetite for oysters back in 1900. Admittedly, I am a super finicky consumer of anything water bound, lake, river or ocean, and oysters aren’t on my list of things to do. But I can’t imagine canned oysters improved any recipe and that the quality of anything allegedly fresh was that good.

One interesting item is called, hilariously, Asparagus in Ambush. It’s like Toad in the Hole, except there’s asparagus cooked in egg yolks in the center. There was an excess fondness for organ meats, “creaming” everything in sight as well as tossing a bunch of ingredients in some aspic and calling it a day. It was a precursor to the mid-century nightmares of Jello-molds gone wild. All I know is, if my options are stuffed calves hearts, creamed fish or chaudfroid of tongue with aspic jelly, I’ll be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the rest of my life.

The book offers up 35 different menu options. I personally could only make it through three of them without skipping a course. While there is plenty that looks normal by today’s standards, if you wanted to try them out, you’d have to do some translating for modern equipment. It’s an interesting trip into the past that will enhance your appreciation for refrigeration, gas and electric stoves and public utilities.

It is possible to find copies of the book online for about $40. In the meantime, if anyone has that barbecue recipe from Cas’s place, drop me a line.

Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Beth Kinnane is the community news editor for

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *