Monthly Archives: February 2011

FROM HARD TACK TO HOME FRIES

“FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES” was a title that intrigued me from the very first time I heard about it. Subtitled, “An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals”, author Barbara Haber delves into such topics as the “Irish Famine and America”, “Civil War Nurses and Diet Kitchens”, “The Harvey Girls: Good Women and Good Food Civilize the American West”, “Home Cooking in the FDR White House”, African American Cooks and their Heritage and even “Cooking Behind Barbed Wire: POWs during World War II”.

What really intrigues me, when I see something published such as Barbara Haber’s “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES” is that the topics are often the very same subjects that I have written about in the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the past, and that other food historians have been studying and writing about, too. However, Barbara Haber has written about these and other subjects, presenting an unusual approach to a number of different aspects to our culinary history.

Accurately, the subtitle “An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals” reflects this unique approach. For instance, although I have read numerous books about the Civil War, I didn’t know that more men died in hospital beds than on the battlefield. I didn’t know what an enormous contribution women made in saving lives in those Civil War hospitals, often defying doctors’ misguided dietary orders to save lives.

Barbara Haber has had a distinguished career as Curator of Books at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. She is a popular speaker and writer on culinary history and has been profiled in prominent publications such as Newsweek, Bon Appetit Magazine, and the New York Times. For her contributions to food and cooking, Ms. Haber was elected to the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in American Food and Beverages and was given the prestigious M.F.K. Fisher Award by Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Barbara Haber was hired in 1968, straight out of library school, to develop the women’s history collection at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library. Back in the 60s, food—culinary history—was not a top priority. Indeed, was “culinary historian” even in our vocabularies back then?

Actually, when Barbara became Curator of Books at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, she was responsible for developing the library’s comprehensive collection of books and other printed materials on the history of women in America—a collection, she explains, that from the first has included cookbooks and books on the history of food.

Barbara’s secret love was the Schlesinger Library’s culinary collection described, in those days as “a quirky assemblage of books on cookery and home economy”. After more than thirty years spent developing the library, lecturing and writing academic papers, Ms. Haber decided to take a leave from her position as curator of books and wrote “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES”

“Writing about food as a way to understand American history has not been a stretch for me,” writes the author in the Introduction to “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES”.

The library itself was founded in 1943 and has a distinguished manuscript collection that includes the papers of American women such as Betty Friedan, as well as the records of the National Organization for Women. “At the same time”, Barbara writes, “The Schlesinger Library has collected the records of women who were not well known, including labor organizers, activists for women’s health and ordinary homemakers. It was for this reason that cookbooks became part of our collection and that the Schlesinger Library holdings now include 16,000 cookbooks as well as the papers of such noted food writers as Julia Child and M.F.K. Fisher….”

“Cookbooks,” Barbara explains, “were recognized by the library as having essential connections to women’s history well before women’s history was recognized as a respected field of academic study. The field took off at the end of the 1960s, when academic women who have been activists in the civil rights, antiwar, and women’s rights movements came to realize that women in general had been excluded from the historical record. By way of setting the record straight, the resources of the library were called upon by faculty members, students, and independent researchers from all parts of the country and abroad, who came to research and write about women’s history. The cookbook collection, however, was generally ignored during this period as evidence of the past preoccupations of American women. Instead,” she reflects, “women’s studies specialists were more immediately intent on bringing visibility to the public activities of women and downplaying their kitchen duties, which seemed to symbolize women’s subordination and oppression by the patriarchy….”

All of this would change when women’s history came of age. However, she explains, scholars in the traditional fields such as literature, psychology, and sociology were late to the scene of culinary history and the important part women have played in this field.

“Well before food became a legitimate and exciting area of investigation in colleges and universities,” explains Barbara, “groups of nonacademic culinary historians were laboring in the vineyard of food history (I think that means us) “In fact,” says Barbara, “it was these groups especially which had been using the library’s cookbook collection for years, that nurtured my inclination to see food as a way of understanding not only individual and group behavior but whole civilizations and major world events…”

Barbara ‘s approach in “this uncommon history” has been to follow the food in published and unpublished memoirs, diaries, and oral histories that came out of some of the most defining moments of our country’s past. “So, for example,” she explains, “a manuscript collection from the Schlesinger Library allowed me to document the life of a famous Viennese restaurant in Harvard Square that gave welcome work to World War II refugees. Cookbooks have been especially valuable as primary sources and sometimes even more reliable than traditional scholarly evidence. In one instance, a cookbook written by FDR’s housekeeper proved more revealing than her memoir of her Washington years, its dull recipes proof that White House guests had been justified in complaining about the food…” (synchronicity! I have been reading Margaret Truman’s excellent “First Ladies” which includes Ms. Truman’s first hand experiences with FDR’s housekeeper, Mrs. Nesbitt, and how she came to be fired by President Truman).

Food was also, she says, a way of discovering unforeseen but revealing aspects of otherwise well-documented events. She writes, “…The importance of food in defining life came home to me in diaries written by Americans who were herded into Japanese prison camps in the Philippines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and had to reconstruct their lives around whatever food they could find to eat….” (I was familiar with the starvation of the Jews and many other people in the concentration camps in Europe during World War II, and I have a copy of “In Memory’s Kitchen”, a unique cookbook compiled by undernourished and starving women in the Czechoslovakian concentration camp of Terezin—also known as Theresienstadt—but confess, I had no idea that ordinary Americans, non-military– struggled to survive in Japanese prison camps—this chapter alone was quite an eye-opener).

“Later,” writes Barbara, “looking at cookbooks written by African Americans, I was struck by how, when virtually every other vestige of a people’s heritage has been viciously removed, food remains to preserve their identity and connect them with one another and their homeland…”

As you undoubtedly realize, “FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES” is not a cookbook. It could perhaps be more accurately described as a food history book. It is an enormously revealing and fascinating “uncommon history of Americans Cooks and Meals”. It will be a valuable addition to your collection.

“FROM HARDTACK TO HOME FRIES” by Barbara Haber was published in 2002 by THE FREE PRESS, a division of Simon & Schuster. It can be found on Amazon.com starting under $10.00 for a new copy, and used starting at 37c.

ISBN 0-684-84217-3

Barbara Haber is also the co-author of “From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women And Food” published in 2005.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

CHEF ANN COOPER – WHAT ARE YOU WRITING NOW?

Chef Ann Cooper is a celebrated author, chef, and educator. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY, Ann has been a chef for more than 30 years including positions with Holland America Cruises, Radisson Hotels, Telluride Ski Resort as well as serving as Executive Chef at the renowned Putney Inn in Vermont. She has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek , and Time Magazine and has appeared on NPR’s ‘Living on Earth,’ ABC’s Nightline, CNN, PBS’ To The Contrary and the CBS Morning Show and many other media outlets. Ann has shared her knowledge and experience by speaking at the Smithsonian Institute, the National Restaurant Association, the Heifer Foundation, Chefs Collaborative, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and numerous conferences. She has been honored by SLOW Food USA, selected as a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, and awarded an honorary doctorate from SUNY Cobleskill for her work on sustainable agriculture.
Ann is the author of four books:

* Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children (2006)

*In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes (2005),

*Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can do About It (2000)

*A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs (1998).

She is past president of The American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont, and past president and board member of Women’s Chefs and Restaurateurs. She also served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board, a Congressional appointment, and was an Executive Committee member of Chefs Collaborative – all in an effort to raise awareness about the value of healthful, seasonal, organic, and regional foods.

I had the great opportunity to write a review of “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1998. As I was going over my notes—now twelve years later—I wondered what Chef Cooper had been doing in the interim. And I know and understand how, when you are researching one thought or idea, other topics start to jump out at you.

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” may have a tongue-in-cheek kind of title but the subject matter, the evolution of women chefs, is worthy of our attention and provides a masterful history of women in the kitchen.

From the book jacket, we discover that author Ann Cooper has spent her life striving for culinary excellence. Since beginning her cooking career at age seventeen, Ann has risen through the ranks to become one of the finest female cooks with the Holland America Cruise Line and the first woman Executive Chef for the Radisson Hotel chain. Well, the wonder is that she ever found enough time to write a book—Ann Cooper is certainly an inspiration to us all!

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” traces the history of women’s connection to food. Ann’s research spans more than 10,000 years of our culinary history. The publishers note, “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” explores the irony that while women are generally seen as the main food providers for most of the planet, they have been overwhelmingly unwelcome in the professional kitchens until only recently. This attitude is slowly melting away as old-fashioned ideologies about gender and the workplace are replaced by the reality that educated, strong-willed, passionate women, who know what’s in their hearts and are willing to work hard, can accomplish anything…”

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” reveals why so many women have devoted themselves to the demanding and oftentimes harsh world of professional cooking. And who could be better suited to tell this story than Ann Cooper, a woman chef who has experienced much of this herself, firsthand?

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” shares the experiences and personal stories of dozens of women chefs. In the Acknowledgements, Ann explains that over 130 women took time out of their busy schedules to be interviewed, then took more time to fill out paperwork and send pictures, recipes, ideas, and words of encouragement. In addition, over 1,000 women chefs and cooks took time to fill out a ten-page survey that Ann says can be likened to a college entrance exam.

For the historical research, Ann turned to the culinary archives and libraries at The Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales Culinary Archives, Schlessinger Library, Williamstown Library, the National Museum of Women and the Arts, the National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation. The research was done over a six month period and Ann reveals that she does not profess to be a historian “nor do I want the reader to feel that this historical material does any more than provide a basis for what we know about women in the kitchen today and in our recent history…”

The opening chapter of “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” traces the history of women in the kitchen from prehistoric times and provides an enlightening explanation as to why, although women developed the techniques and tools for cooking, men have previously dominated the professional field of cooking. A strong case is made for women being the actual discoverers of fire and how, in hunter-gatherer societies, women contributed four-fifths of the clan’s food. Ann Cooper also says that women may have also been the first wine makers and she explains how a transition from a matriarchal to patriarchal society at the beginning of the Christian calendar may explain the lack of historical data on women and food. “At that time in history,” Ann writes, “women weren’t encouraged to read or write, and hence, most history was being recorded by men—women were seen as slaves or chattel…”

How this role began to evolve and change in early America and started with Mother Ann Lee, the founder of an off-shoot of the Quakers, who became known as the Shakers. “In this culture,” Ann Cooper writes, “women did all the cooking, preserving, smoking, canning, farming, and gardening. Some culinary historians credit Shaker women with being the best cooks of their time…”

Ann also notes that “many black slave women made their mark on America’s early culinary history”. She quotes Jessica Harris, professor of English at Queens College and a culinary historian with a specialty in the foodways of Africa with Dr. Harris’ belief that much of our culinary heritage stems from the African slave trade. “A WOMAN’S PLACE IN THE KITCHEN” continues with tracing the changing role of women from the Industrial Era through the early 1900s and moves forward to Women and their Cookbooks. Ann acknowledges that although women were not the first writers of cookbooks, as a group we have been the most prolific.

She also notes that British women authored many of the first cookbooks.

“One of the earliest,” writes Ann, “written in 1604 by Elinor Fettiplaces, was called the Receipt Book which included 134 recipes…”

Ann lists in chronological order the various women in both England and the United States who authored early cookbooks, taking us through the 1700s into the 1800s. She writes, “Catherine Beecher was 100 years ahead of her time in 1846 when she wrote MISS BEECHER’S DOMESTIC RECEIPT BOOK which helped promote her ideas on women and food…” and notes that, during the late 1800s, two other culinary writing venues took shape, both of which have had a lasting effect on our written culinary heritage. “The first of these legacies,” she explains, “was the advent of cookbooks written to help support charitable causes. This phenomenon began with the end of the Civil War as a way of combating postwar poverty. To this day, women all over the country have sold cookbooks as a way to raise money for every imaginable cause…”

Ann Cooper says that “the second of these written culinary legacies is the woman’s magazine or journal. The late 1800s saw the rise of such newsstand icons as THE WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION, THE LADIES HOME JOURNAL and GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. These cornerstones of the homemaker’s kitchen have flourished for almost 200 years and were the predecessors of the culinary print media we know today…”

The roster of women cookbook authors continues through the 1800s and into the 1900s, observing that “the last of the authors from this era was Lizzie Black (Mrs. Simon Kander) who in 1901 published THE SETTLEMENT COOKBOOK. This book was self-published with funds raised by volunteers.

“The Settlement House” Ann explains, “was started in Milwaukee at the turn of the century as a place to indoctrinate European immigrants into the Amercan way of life. One of their projects was a cookbook to help the newly arrived better adjust to their new home….”

It was through advertisements that the cookbook earned enough money over the course of eight years to pay for a new settlement house building. (This was something I had never known and I don’t recall ever reading it anywhere else before).

Ann Cooper continues listing cookbook authors who have made indelible differences, such as Irma Rombauer, with her JOY OF COOKING. Ann Cooper also traces the establishment and success of women and their cooking schools and carries us forward to women working their way into the professional kitchen.

I’ve written extensively about these opening, introductory chapters of
“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” – and yet, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the book.

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” is a most important contribution to women’s culinary history. It is wonderfully illustrated, often with old-timey covers from old cookbooks and magazines. If you are interested in our culinary heritage and learning about the evolution of women chefs today, this is the book for you. Included are short biographies of the women chefs’ featured in “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN”, a glossary of terms to help us all better understand terminology in this field, and a women chefs’ recommended reading list There is also a sample list of women chefs and their restaurants throughout history, dating back to Antoines in New Orleans, in 1840 and moving forward to Square One in San Francisco, 1996.

“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN” by Ann Cooper was published by Van Nostrand Reinhold in 1998. The book originally sold for $29.95. I did some random checking on internet book sites and found you can purchase A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen for under a dollar, used, and new, from Amazon, for $7.18. ISBN 0-442-02370-7.

As so often happens when you are writing about one topic, other interesting subjects come to your attention and I think this is what happened when Ann was researching her first book, “A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen”.

Many of us remember learning to cook at our mother’s feet. Recipes, tips and traditions were passed on as children were asked to stir the soup or help roll out the pastry dough during family meal preparation. While Chef Ann Cooper gathered information for her cookbooks, she heard numerous stories from other women chefs about their fond memories of cooking with their mothers and grandmothers.

Combining her emotional connection to these stories with her growing concerns over the lack of time families spend eating together these days, Cooper was inspired to write In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes co-authored by Lisa Holmes and published in 2005.

“One in every four meals is eaten in a fast food restaurant,” said Cooper, who quotes the same statistic for meals eaten in the car. “We’re growing a whole generation of kids who don’t know how to cook.”

Cooper, who learned to cook from her grandmothers, both first- or second-generation immigrants, became a chef out of her love for food, and giving and nurturing through food. She strongly believes that families need to slow down and take time to eat and prepare food together in order to carry on important sociological and cultural elements, as well as foster good health.
She encourages parents to simply bring their kids with them into the kitchen, whether it’s to help with a certain recipe or to prepare an entire meal. “There’s something very special about them helping in the kitchen,” she said. “I think wonderful things happen.” This was something I could strongly relate to. My mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was 9 or 10 years old.
Cooper met many of the chefs who contributed to In Mother’s Kitchen while working on her other two cookbooks, A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs and Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat. She was touched by the stories she compiled, such as Chicago chef Gale Gand’s story of teaching her son about his Grandma Myrna by preparing her pancake recipe every weekend. “The stories make me cry,” said Cooper.
The book is a compilation of not only stories such as these, but of wonderful, heirloom recipes from many different cultures and old photographs of young, smiling girls cooking with their moms. There are chapters on Mothers & Grandmothers, Daughters, Motherlands and even Remedies handed down through generations to heal common ailments.

Writing about our mothers’ and grandmothers’ kitchens and comfort foods appears to be an idea whose time had come. It is a subject so dear to my heart that I have collected enough books on the topic to fill several shelves which I will share with all of you another time.

In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes is available new for $29.95 but I have found it on Amazon for as little as one cent (you will always pay $3.99 shipping & handling on Amazon—but they are advertising both new and used copies for one cent. Jessica’s Biscuit has it listed at $29.95. It is available through Alibris.com for 99c (plus shipping).

Ann Cooper is a contemporary cookbook author whose books you will enjoy and want to add to your cookbook collection.

Happy cooking & Happy cookbook collecting!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

FORGOTTEN RECIPES

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” compiled and updated by Jaine Rodack (and published by Wimmer Books) is the kind of cookbook that demonstrates, I think, what you can do with an idea. Not only that, but Ms. Rodack’s book, copyrighted and first published in 1981, has gone through sixteen printings as of 2002 (possibly more since then).

“It all started out simply enough,” explains Jaine. “I went to a flea market and bought an old, yellowed magazine from the 20s. When I got it home, I realized what a treasure I had! Not only were the articles a bit of living history , but the entire magazine was a look at the way people of the day kept house, shopped and cooked. There were fashions, commentaries by leading authorities and readers’ letters expressing their views….”

From then on, she says, she was hooked. She bought, lived and breathed magazines. “The artwork,” she exclaims, “was breathtaking. The stories—terribly romantic, and the recipes—sensational!”

Jaine rediscovered some things she hadn’t eaten for years and came upon others she had never heard of, like Rinkum Diddy.

After many years, Jaine began to assemble some of the recipes. She notes, “depending on the year they were written, their instructions differ greatly. In the late 1800s there were no controlled ovens and recipes said “cook til done”. Fireless cookstoves, she notes, and other now-forgotten inventions varied instructions as well. She tried to keep the recipes as close to the original recipe as possible and advises you may have to experiment a little to get the heat and cooking time straight.

Included, as well, are various household hints, along with “bits and pieces” of memorabilia to give you an idea of what was going on in the world at the time these recipes appeared.

“Forgotten Recipes” opens with a look at Yesterday’s Kitchens and provides a comparison on inflation, then and now – an article that appeared in a 1949 dealt with the cost of feeding a family of three. “According to this article,” writes Jaine, “you could feed such a family on $10 a week..and feed them well”. She goes on to provide a comparison with groceries purchased in 1949 and the same items bought at the time her book was published. (I am sure the $10 a week in 1949 was fairly accurate; I remember my mother telling me that, during the 1940s, she had $10 a week with which to buy groceries and whatever other household items we needed—and there were seven in our family, five children and two adults).

Jaine notes that the total spent in 1983 for $10 worth of groceries in 1949 was $41.58.

Another chapter in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is devoted to household hints which, Jaine explains, have been a part of America’s magazines for over 90 years. (and still are! Now we have Hints from Heloise!).

Some of the household hints are really outdated, such as “Have radiator heat? Place a metal bread box over it and use it for a warming cabinet for your dishes…” but the ideas for substitutes for sugar (during the war years when sugar was rationed) would still work today – although I believe that honey, the substitute most often recommended, is more expensive today than sugar was in the 1940s!

Recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” range widely, from 1922 pork scrapple (My sister in Tennessee used to make scrapple!) to Timbales (pastry shells that you filled with seasoned food, like salmon or spinach or peas), from a 1930 recipe for cabbage, apple and walnut salad (that is somewhat similar to the way my mother made cole slaw, with apple in it), from such tried and true recipes for reusing rice to make dishes like fried rice to a 1944 recipe for Green Tomato Pie.

There is a 1923 recipe for Rinktum Diddy (made with cheese and canned tomatoes—sounds delicious!) and a 1922 recipe for creamed lobster that won a $100 in a recipe contest. Jaine notes, quite correctly, that lobster was once not as expensive as it is now—and highly recommends the recipe which calls for 2 cups of diced boiled lobster. (I’m thinking of trying this with canned crab as a substitute).

Included as well as recipes for 1927 Tamale Pie which, if I recall correctly, was popular for decades and mentioned as one of Richard Nixon’s favorite recipes. (Jaine considers Tamale Pie as a foreign dish but is actually a completely American invention…even so, this is something you may want to “re-discover”). There are recipes for making your own tomato sauce, 1934 Spanish Meatloaf, ad a number of recipes which called for veal (something else that was once very inexpensive—haven’t times changed?)

Dessert recipes include recipes for butterless cake, 1931 Plantation Marble Cake, 1928 Award Winning Gold Cake, a 1927 Ice Box Cake and 1932 Raisin Nut Pie—and, aha! A 1928 thanksgiving fruitcake recipe that sounds pretty good to me!

Accompanying many of the recipes are sidebars explaining where the recipe came from or the time period in which it was popular, as well as comments such as “in 1930 Woolworth’s was still a five and ten cents store, women were trying to break the ‘tub habit’ in favor of washing machines, and gas ranges were getting a whole new look..” which appears with a 1930 Butter Pie recipe

Overall, the recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” are entertaining, and nostalgic (for some of us, at least) and offer a delightful trip back in time to see how things were done in the good old days.

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 94c. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors) – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00. Alibris.com has copies starting at $1.65. I was unable to find a copy at Jessica’s Biscuit.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

SEARCHING FOR META GIVEN

Abe of Abebooks.com asked 500 customers who owned a cookbook that had been given to them by a family member to tell the story about their handed down culinary companions. He wrote, “Those old, splattered, battered cookbooks found on kitchen shelves are also treasured family heirlooms in many cases. According to research by AbeBooks.com, Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking is the cookbook most frequently handed down through the generations. The books often spanned several generations of cooks and had huge sentimental value. In 96 per cent of the cases, a grandmother, mother and mother-in-law had handed over the book to the next generation. The books tended to have a long history within each family – 58 per cent of the cookbooks were more than 50 years old. Thirty eight per cent of the current owners said they had owned the book for more than 30 years…”

The cookbook I grew up on, and learned to cook from, was – as I have written before in Sandychatter—an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook that I believe my mother bought for a dollar at Woolworth’s. (I now have that very cookbook, which is certainly battered, tattered and stained. Years later I searched for, and found, more pristine copies). When I was a teenager, a copy of Meta Given’s “The Modern Family Cookbook” appeared in our family bookcase (a little cherry wood bookcase with glass doors, that my younger sister now has). I think it was a book club offering but that baffles me as neither of my parents ever joined a book club. I have a vague memory of my mother refusing to pay for it and so it languished on the family bookshelves until I began to read it and eventually claimed for my own. And, to add to the mystery, there is no indication on the inside pages of the cookbook that it was ever a book club selection. The original copyright was 1942. This edition was copyrighted by Meta Given in 1953, which sounds about right to me.
Not surprisingly, the pages most stained are those with cookie recipes on them- rocks and hermits, gum drop cookies, something called cocoa Indians, lemon drop cookies and molasses drop. My mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was 9 or 10 years old and most of the time, I baked cookies.

I now own a copy of the original 1942 “Modern Family Cookbook” which is somewhat thicker and heavier than the 1953 edition. In 1947, Meta compiled “Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking which is in two volumes. I had to laugh at myself; I thought I only had a copy of Volume I but when I began going through some of my old cookbooks in our new built garage library, I found a copy of Volume II.

None of my copies of Meta Given books have dust jackets and therein is the crux of the matter – so often, biographical information can be found on the dust jackets of cookbooks. I began a Google search:

Margi Shrum of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the following in April, 2009 “I spoke last week to a group of parents of special-needs children, and the conversation turned to old cookbooks. Egads, I love them. My favorite is one my late mother used, “Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking,” which seems to have been first published in 1947. I have the 1955 edition. It’s chock-a-block with antiquated stuff. I never, and you shouldn’t, use the techniques for canning or preserving foods in these old books, and I am never going to make Muskrat Fricassee (calls for one dressed muskrat. If I could picture what a muskrat looked like I’d picture it dressed in top hat and tails. Carrying a cane). But there’s also a lot of useful stuff in this book, which is in two volumes and has 1,500 pages. I’ve tried loosely over the years to find information about the author but to little avail. She was of some note in the 1940s through the early ’60s, if the popularity of her cookbooks is any indication. Her first was the “The Modern Family Cookbook,” published in 1942.”

Margie adds, “The encyclopedia’s foreword says Ms. Given grew up on a ‘Missouri hill farm’ learning to cook with the limited foodstuffs available to her. She then studied home economics and became involved in developing and testing recipes, and in writing about nutrition, shopping and kitchen equipment. Her foreword to my edition — purchased on eBay and immediately chewed on by my golden retriever puppy, who smelled food — was written from Orlando in 1955….”

May I add that the foreword also states that Meta Given…”had good food (growing up) but little variety. The women were forced to be resourceful in presenting the same simple foods in a variety of interesting ways. She watched food grow on her family’s farm and worked to help it develop into a sound and abundant harvest. She learned to store and preserve a summer’s plenty to last through the winter months. And she acquired from her parents a deep appreciation for the goodness of earth’s bounty…”

Sure enough, Volume II of “Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking” offers a recipe for Muskrat Fricasse—as well as antelope, deer and beaver. It also has a recipe for Hasenpfeffer which I won’t ever be trying. Hasenpfeffer was the bane of my childhood. If you came home from school and smelled it cooking, you knew we were having it for dinner and there was no escape.

Also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at “evisceration and removal of feathers, removal of fur….” But you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection, these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask? I wasn’t afraid to ask—I just never wanted to KNOW).

Elsewhere on Google, someone wrote, “My mother was only 17 years old when she got married. Somewhere in that time, she was given a special two volume cookbook set called Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking. It was a true cookbook of the 50′s, offering advice so basic, the author must have assumed many of her readers couldn’t boil water. Until Julia Child altered my mother’s views on food, Meta Given’s was the only cookbook in our home. The recipes were so simple and straightforward, I learned to cook from them at a very young age. By the time I was nine years old I could make real fudge, basic one-bowl cakes, quick breads, and peanut butter cookies all by myself. I also learned to make a pumpkin yeast bread when I was slightly older. Over the years my mother’s Meta Given’s cookbook disintegrated into a pile of loose pages. However, I was able to track down a used set several years ago. Although most of the recipes seem outdated, it was quite an experience just holding the cookbook while childhood memories rushed back…”

The following single line clue was also found on Google: “When not penning cookbooks, Ms. Given—I don’t think she’d approve the title, but an extensive Google search fails to reveal her marital status— taught Home Ec at the University of Chicago in the post-World War II years…”

Maybe Meta Given tired of teaching in Chicago and returned to her home in Missouri. We may never know- but if you are interested in finding her books, there are umpteen sites to choose from as you browse through Google.

I have the following:
• The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942
• Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Volumes 1 and II published in 1947
• The Modern Family Cook Book, published in 1953

As well as the following, which I do not have:
• The Art of Modern Cooking and Better Meals: recipes for every occasion
• The Modern Family Cook Book New Revised Edition
• The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given 1968
• The Wizard Modern Family Cookbook
• Delicious Dairy Dishes

If you know anything about Meta Given’s life, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

Sandy

THOSE INCOMPARABLE BROWNS–CORA, ROSE & BOB, COOKBOOK AUTHORS

Back in 1965, when I first began collecting cookbooks, one of my first cookbook penpals was a woman in Michigan, Betsy, who has remained my friend to this day. I have been the happy recipient of many of her cookbooks as she began to downsize.

Betsy was the person who “introduced” me to the Browns – Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, authors of over a dozen really fantastic, outstanding cookbooks. Betsy had some duplicates of the Browns’ cookbooks and sent them to me. Well, I was quickly hooked. And it was the Browns’ “America Cooks” (published 1940 by Halcyon House), that really turned me onto church-and-club community cookbooks. (I was stunned to see “America Cooks” listed at $300 by an antiquarian book dealer recently. I bought an extra copy for $5.00 some time ago and gave it to someone who didn’t have a copy!)

Everyone of you who reads cookbooks like novels (and thinks you are the only person in the world who does this) would find “America Cooks” a most readable cookbook. Since “America Cooks” was published in 1940, others have followed in the Browns’ footsteps. In the 1970s, Ann Seranne edited Junior League cookbooks, dividing them into parts of the country – titled THE EASTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK, THE WESTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK, THE MIDWESTERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK AND THE SOUTHERN JUNIOR LEAGUE COOKBOOK. And I’m not here to put any of those books down – but they are collections of recipes from junior league cookbooks, unadorned and without any of the commentary that makes the Browns’ books so entertaining. And I’m sure many of you are familiar by now with the Best of the Best cookbooks from Quail Ridge Press which are divided up by individual states except in a few instances when a few small states were combined (for instance, Best of the Best from the Mid-Atlantic cookbook combines Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., while Best of the Best from Big Sky cookbook combines Montana and Wyoming) Nevertheless, the ladies from Quail Ridge Press went from state to state, collecting recipe books from churches and clubs everywhere they went—the featured cookbooks are listed in each cookbook so that, if you are interested, you can order some of them that are still in print. And, in more recent years, some organizations such as Favorite Recipes Press, are combining the best of the Junior League cookbooks into first rate new cookbooks—and these are extremely well done. (See my reviews on Recipes Worth Sharing and More Recipes Worth Sharing, both reviewed on this blog). I’m just saying, “America Cooks” may have been first.

In the foreword, the Browns write, “We put in twenty years of culinary adventuring in as many countries and wrote a dozen books about it before finding out that we might as well have stayed at home and specialized in the regional dishes of our own forty-eight states. For America cooks and devours a greater variety of viands than any other country. We’re the world’s richest stewpot and there’s scarcely a notable foreign dish or drink that can’t be had to perfection in one or another section of our country….”

“For many years we Browns have been collecting regional American cooking lore, gathering characteristic recipes from each of the forty-eight states (Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states in 1940) with colorful notes on regional culinary customs. Our collection is complete and savory. It has been our aim to make this America’s culinary source book, a means whereby each state and city may interchange its fine foods and dishes with every other, from coast to coast and from border to border. Here are forty-eight different cookbooks merged into one handy volume—a guide to the best in food and drink that this bounteous country offers. Obviously, no one person nor three, can cover every kitchen, even with such enthusiastic help as we have had from several hundred local authorities. But we believe this is our best food book, and in order to build it bigger and better in later editions, we should like to swap regional recipes and gustatory lore with all who are interested…”

And seventy years later, I think “America Cooks” remains the Browns’ best food book.

Cora Brown, Robert’s mother, was born in Charlotte, Michigan, graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of music, married and brought up a family. She took up writing fiction and in 1920 went to Brazil to become co-publisher with her son and daughter in law, Rose. Cora lived with Bob and Rose in Japan, China, France, Germany, etc, becoming familiar with foreign customs and kitchens and collecting recipes with Rose. Cora is the author of “The Guide to Rio de Janerio” and co-authored ten cookbooks with Bob and Rose.

Rose Brown was born in Middletown, Ohio, and graduated from Barnard College and Teachers College. She was a teacher, interior decorator, journalist and contributed articles on cooking to Colliers, Vogue, This Week and other magazines. Rose was co-author with Cora and Bob on most of their cookbooks. One cookbook that does not list Cora is “Look Before You Cook” which shows Rose and Bob as authors. One cookbook authored solely by Bob Brown is “The Complete Book of Cheese.” “Culinary Americana” was written by Eleanor Parker and Bob Brown—Eleanor becoming Bob’s wife after Rose’s death.

According to Lippincott, the initiation of Rose into the mysteries of cooking was over a camp fire with game and instruction by her father. During the World War, she worked as a writer for the Committee of Public Information in Santiago, Chile. In Buenos Aires, Mrs. Brown became co publisher with Bob Brown of weekly magazines in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and London. Rose Brown had her own kitchen in a dozen countries and traveled all over the world, always pursuing her hobbies of collecting recipes and cooking lore—and going fishing with her husband. Rose Brown passed away in 1952.

Bob brown was born in Chicago and was graduated from Oak Park High School and the University of Wisconsin. He arrived in New York in 1908 to enter the writing lists, contributing verse and fiction to practically all the periodicals of the time. One of his first books, written after the end of Prohibition, was called “Let There Be Beer!” He then collaborated with his mother and wife Rose on “The Wine Cookbook,” first published in 1934 and reprinted many times. A 1960 edition was re-named “Cooking with Wine” .

Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was a writer, editor, publisher, and traveler. From 1908 to 1917, he wrote poetry and prose for numerous magazines and newspapers in New York City, publishing two pulp novels, “What Happened to Mary” and “The Remarkable Adventures of Christopher Poe” (1913), and one volume of poetry, “My Marjonary” (1916).

In 1918, Bob Brown traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, writing for the U.S. Committee of Public Information in Santiago de Chile. In 1919, he moved with his wife, Rose Brown, to Rio de Janeiro, where they founded Brazilian American, a weekly magazine that ran until 1929. With Brown’s mother, Cora, the Browns also established magazines in Mexico City and London: Mexican American (1924-1929) and British American (1926-1929).

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Browns retired from publishing and traveled through Asia and Europe, settling in France from 1929-1933. Brown became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris, publishing several volumes of poetry, including” Globe Gliding” (1930), “Gems” (1931), “Words” (1931), and “Demonics” (1931), as well as “1450-1950” (1929), a book of visual poetry. While in France, Brown also made plans toward, and wrote a manifesto for, the development of a “reading machine” involving the magnified projection of miniaturized type printed on movable spools of tape. Arguing that such a device would enable literature to compete with cinema in a visual age, Brown published a book of “Readies”—poems by Gertrude Stein, Fillipo Marinetti, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, typeset in a manner appropriate to operation of his projected reading machine. Although Brown’s reading machine was never developed, his papers include letters and papers pertaining to its projected design and technical specifications, as well as a collection of his own published and unpublished visual and conceptual writing. (Bob Brown was way ahead of his time – today, we have the Kindle. I can’t help but wonder if someone came across his manifesto and ran with it).

In 1933, Brown returned to New York. In the 1930s, he wrote a series of international cookbooks in collaboration with Rose and Cora Brown. He also lived in cooperative colonies in Arkansas and Louisiana, visited the USSR, and wrote a book, “Can We Co-Operate” (1940), regarding the parameters of a viable American socialism. In 1941, he and Rose returned to South America. While traveling down the Amazon they amassed a substantial collection of art and cultural artifacts and collaborated on a book, “Amazing Amazon” (1942). The Browns eventually reestablished residence in Rio de Janeiro, where they lived until Rose Brown’s death in 1952.

After thirty years of living in many foreign countries, and following the deaths of Cora and Rose, Bob Brown closed their mountain home in Petropolis, Brazil, and returned to New York, where he married Eleanor Parker in 1953. Brown continued to write and ran a shop called Bob Brown’s Books in Greenwich Village and ran a mail order business until his death in 1959. Shortly after Brown’s death, a new edition of “1450-1950” was published by Jonathan Williams’s Jargon/Corinth Press.

During his lifetime, Bob Brown authored more than a thousand short stories and thirty full length books.
The Browns appear to have used a number of different publishers for their cookbooks. While “Soups, Sauces and Gravies,” “Fish and Sea Food Cookbook,” Salad and Herbs” were published by Lippincott, “The Complete Book of Cheese” was published by Gramercy Publishing Company. “America Cooks” and “10,000 Snacks” were published by Halcyon House and “The European Cook Book” by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A few were published by companies I am unfamiliar with; “The Country Cookbook” by A.S. Barnes and Company, and “Most for Your Money Cookbook” by Modern Age Books. “Culinary Americana”, co-authored by Brown Brown and Eleanor Parker Brown, was published by Roving Eye Press (Bob Brown’s own publication name). For whatever reason, the Browns appear to have shopped around whenever they had a book ready for publication. (Or did they copyright them all first, and then shop for publishers?)

Recently, I began to rediscover the fabulous cookbooks written the Browns. Some unexpected surprises turned up—for instance, as I was browsing through the pages of “Most for Your Money” I found a chapter titled “Mulligans Slumgullions, Lobscouses and Burgoos”—while I am unfamiliar with mulligans and lobscouses, I’ve written about slumgullion stew in sandychatter and have received messages from readers from time to time, sharing their stories about slumgullion stews of their childhoods. It starts out “Jack London’s recipe for slumgullion is both simple and appetizing…” providing some enlightenment about the history of slumgullion. (some other time, perhaps we can explore the obscure and mostly forgotten names of recipes).
And – synchronicity – I just finished writing about sauces last week when I rediscovered, on my bookshelves, the Browns “Soups Sauces and Gravies” which simply reaffirms my belief that the best cookbooks on sauces will be found in older cookbooks. This cookbook by the Browns was published in 1939.

The most complete list I have of the Browns’ cookbooks is as follows:

The Wine Cookbook, by Cora, Rose & Bob Brown, originally published in 1934, revised edition 1944, Little Brown & Company. In 1960 Bob Brown published a reprint of The Wine Cookbook with the title “ Cooking With Wine” and under his Roving Eye Press logo.

The European Cook Book/The European Cookbook for American Homes is apparently the same book with slightly different titles. Subtitled The Four in One book of continental cookery, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France. I saw and nearly purchased on the internet an English version of the same book from a dealer in England. I already have three copies, don’t need a fourth! However, it should be noted that the original European Cook Book for American Homes was published in 1936 by Farrar & Rinehart. The 1951 edition with a shortened title was published by Prentice-Hall.

The Country Cook Book by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1937 by A.S. Barnes and Company.

Most for your Money CookBook, by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by Modern Age Books
Salads and Herbs, By Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by J.B. Lippincott

The South American Cookbook (what I have is a Dover Publication reprint first published in 1971. The original was published by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1939 – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown

Soups, Sauces and Gravies by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott Company

The Vegetable Cookbook by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott

America Cooks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 by Halcyon House.

Outdoor Cooking by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 The Greystone Press (*notes that parts of this book appeared in Collier’s and Esquire magazines)

Fish and Seafood Cook Book by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, published 1940 by J.B. Lippincott Company

Look Before you Cook by Rose and Bob Brown, published 1941 by Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.

10,000 Snacks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1948 by Halcyon House—the format and chatty style of 10,000 snacks is quite similar to “America Cooks”.

The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown, published 1955 by Gramercy Publishing

Culinary Americana by Eleanor Parker Brown and Bob Brown is a bibliography of cookbooks published in the cities and towns of the United States during the years from 1860 through 1960. It is believed that the first fund-raiser cookbook was compiled and published during the Civil War, by women to raised money for the Sanitation Commission. Culinary American focuses primarily on “regional” cookbooks, and notes that, “Certainly, it was after the War (i.e., the Civil War) that we find them printed in many states of the union,” writes Eleanor Parker Brown in the Introduction to Culinary Americana, “A survey of 200 cookbooks of our own collection, published at various times during this last century in Massachusetts showed that they came from seventy-four different cities and villages. In the case of many of the smaller places, these titles constitute the only books ever printed in these localities, which makes them important landmarks in the history of bookmaking in the state.
The regional cookbooks are a treasure trove of original recipes, as well as a record of old ‘receipts,’ reflecting the nationality background of the settlers of the community. Thus you will expect, and find, German foods in the old books of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Scandinavian receipts in the pamphlets of the Midwest, and Spanish dishes in the booklets published in the southwest…the little books, some in the handwriting of the contributor, often with signed recipes, gives us a glimpse of the gallant women who proudly cooked these meals and generously gave up their secrets ‘for the benefit of…others…”

Eleanor Parker Brown also shares with us, in the introduction, “Bob Brown first got together a cookbook collection for reference when he began to write about cooking. He had 1500 volumes which were purchased promptly by a grocery chain store as nucleus for their research library. It was then necessary for him to start a new collection. This was the origin of a interest in cookery books which lasted, and grew, to the end of this life. Bob saw cook books as social and cultural history in America; particularly, those regional books which were so close to the heart of the country…”

Eleanor says that after Bob’s sudden death, she continued work o this bibliography.” Culinary Americana includes listings of all the regional cookbooks we could either locate or obtain information about. It runs the gamut from ‘fifteen cent dinners for families of six’ to the extravagant and elaborate collations of Oscar of the Waldorf….”
“Culinary Americana” is the kind of book that cookbook collectors simply drool over.

As an aside, I find it curious that the Browns flooded the cookbook market within the span of a few years; from the Wine Cookbook, published in 1934, to Look Before You Cook published in 1941, the Browns published eleven cookbooks. Then they appear to have gone on hiatus until 10,000 snacks was published in 1948. However, given the extent of their travels and living in countries all over the world – it crossed my mind that perhaps all of these cookbooks were “in the works” while they lived abroad—and perhaps came home to get their cookbooks published. I’m speculating, of course.

The first time I wrote about the Browns (for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1994) – information was scarce. Almost everything I wrote about was gleaned from the books or their dust jackets. Today, thanks to the internet, there is more biographical information available but not enough to satisfy my greedy soul. Of all the authors I have collected in the past 45 years, those by The Browns remain my all time favorites. I was stunned to discover Bob Brown had a bookstore and that he wrote over a thousand short stories and 30 full length books. Yowza – this trio did it all.

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!

–Sandra Lee Smith

REMEMBERING JEANNE VOLTZ

I first became aware of Jeanne Voltz when she was a food editor of the Los Angeles Times in the 1960s, when we first moved to California. The food section of the Los Angeles Times was, in my estimation, unequaled in the 1960s-1970s. (I’ve been vocal in my disappointment with the current food sections of the two local newspapers, today. They’ve gone way too high brow for my taste. I find a lot more interesting recipes to clip from the food sections that my penpals send to me from various other parts of the country).

But a few decades ago, I clipped all of the recipes and articles that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and even filled two 3-ring spiral binders with S.O.S. columns. (This was one of those recipe columns where readers could request a particular recipe, often something served at a well known Southern California restaurant). But I digress.

Jeanne Voltz was born in Collinsville, Alabama, near Birmingham, to a southern family proud of its generations-old culinary skills. She began a career in Journalism in 1940 when, as we know from learning about Betty Wason, few women were in this field. Jeanne taught herself about food and cooking; she was a food editor for the Miami Herald in the 1950s, created the food section of the Los Angeles Times in 1960, and went on to become a food editor at Woman’s Day Magazine in 1973. Jeanne wrote a dozen cookbooks, two of which won national awards from the James A. Beard Association; “The California Cookbook” in 1971, and “Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Butts and Other Great Feeds”, in 1986. Jeanne was the winner of the R.T. French Tastemaker Award for Best Regional Cookbook in 1971 and a six-time winner of the Vesta Award for newspaper food editing and writing.

Jeanne Voltz was also a founding member of the New York chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a professional organization for women in food-related careers. She was president of this organization in 1985 when the group went international.

Of her book, THE FLAVOR OF THE SOUTH”, Jeanne wrote that the selection of recipes was personal, drawn from her earliest gastronomic experiences at the table of a mother and grandmothers who spent much time and energy preparing food to the taste of demanding families.

Often, we find similar sentiments expressed by cookbook authors, offering recognition to their mothers and grandmothers!

Jean Anderson, who was a food writer with Family Circle at the same time that Jeanne Voltz was a food editor at Woman’s Day in 1973, recalled that Jeanne Voltz proved her worth immediately. Anderson wrote, “She (Voltz) really brought Woman’s Day into the modern age – introduced more sophisticated recipes that were still approachable for those cooks who were not accomplished…”

Jeanne Voltz also tackled the then-unfashionable subject of southern food in the late 70s, proving to one and all that southern food was a legitimate cuisine. (Ok, for those of us who have always loved southern food, it might surprise us to learn that southern food hasn’t always been totally acceptable to one and all!).

Much can be gleaned about the food concepts of an author by reading the introductions to their books, or even by reading between the lines of their cookbook recipes. Of southern food, Voltz wrote (in “THE FLAVOR OF THE SOUTH”) that “anthropologists classify diets in various ways—by breadstuffs , for example. The southern diet is based on corn and rice. Hot biscuits are the magnificent wheaten exception, but in some parts of the south more corn bread and rice are consumed than wheat…Other intellectuals,” she wrote, “ judge a cuisine by its flavors. The flavor of the South is a heady mixture of onions, celery, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, cumin, horseradish, chili powder, mustard, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger, and the distinctive contribution of the Indians, fil’e, powdered leaves of native sassafras…”

Southern cooking, Jeanne Voltz wrote, is sensual, not intellectual. Southerners, she explained, cook and eat to enjoy. The simplest foods, fresh tender greens, and pot liquor with corn bread, or fried pan fish and hush puppies, are cooked with painstaking care.

“Only in the South and California,” she claimed, “do home cooks insist on fresh produce of a quality almost forgotten in other areas. Supermarkets have taken over food distribution in the South, as everywhere, but farm markets, fresh produce and seafood peddlers, and roadside stands still purvey fresh foods in beautiful seasonal area….”

And even though the author wrote those words decades ago, I believe they are still true today.

“Southern cuisine” she explained, “is influenced by diverse food styles, American, Indian, English, Irish and Scotch, African, French Spanish, Mexican, representing every flag planted on the soil, no matter how briefly. More recently, Cuban Spanish and Puerto Rican Spanish people have brought their food customs to Florida. Middle European Jews have also put their stamp on the cuisine….”

While visiting my friend Sue Erwin in Northern California some years ago, we spent several delightful hours one morning at her favorite used book store in Chico. There, I happened to find a like-new copy of “Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Butts and Other Great Feeds,” Jeanne Voltz’s cookbook published in 1990 by Alfred A. Knopf. This book was originally published under the title, “Barbecued Ribs and Other Great Feeds”. It could have been subtitled, “everything you ever wanted to know about barbeque and didn’t know who to ask”….Jeanne covered every angle, from the grill, pointing out that some of the best barbecued chicken she ever had was cooked on an old oven rack set precariously on two stacks of bricks with the fire burning on the ground between the bricks..to accessories, which are illustrated. She provided detailed instructions for the fuel, fire, and cooking techniques. And, oh boy! What recipes!

The publishers proudly note, “Jeanne Voltz gives us the fruits of a lifetime of testing, eating, and enjoying good barbecue. She has gathered the best regional recipes from across America, from Alabama, the Carolinas, and Florida to California and the Southwest—recipes that she and her family have savored over the years, developing their own techniques for perfecting their barbecue skills.

“BARBECUED RIBS, SMOKED BUTTS, AND OTHER GREAT FEEDS” is also laced with personal stories about great roadside joints and barbecue lore…and it is designed to capture the spirit and flavor of America’s love for outdoor cooking.

It was while searching for an entirely different cookbook on my shelves devoted to California cookbooks that I found a copy of “THE L.A. GOURMET” published by Doubleday & Company in 1971. Subtitled, “Favorite Recipes from Famous Los Angeles Restaurants”, this little cookbook was co-authored by Burks Hamner, who was, at that time a public relations expert in the food and restaurant field while Jeanne was food editor of the Los Angeles Times. What bemuses me most, forty-something years after its publication, is the number of restaurants featured in L.A. Gourmet that no longer exist, such as Perino’s and Chasen’s, Hungry Tiger and Don The Beachcomber’s. (I was only at Perino’s once in my life but it was a most memorable, unforgettable evening. Many of my coworkers and I, back in the 1970s, spent numerous lunch hours at Don The Beachcomber’s—they had a wonderful south seas kind of luncheon buffet. The Hungry Tiger was the place to go for any great seafood dinner…but I digress).

While some, if not most, of the restaurants featured in “THE L.A. GOURMET” have disappeared from the southern California landscape, their specialties have not. And, in the introduction, the co-authors advised that the recipes chosen for this little book were the most practical for producing in your own home kitchen. They were also tested under home conditions and served to families and guests with good results. So it is that we can still enjoy the Hungry Tiger’s recipe for clam chowder, Roast Tenderloin of Pork as it was served at Don the Beachcomber, Fillets of Sole in White Wine with Mushrooms as served at Musso and Frank Grill (which, incidentally, is still around) or the Brown Derby’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Pot Roast. This little book is such a find that, if you should ever come across a copy, you will discover what a treasure it is.

The second cookbook of Jeanne Voltz’s that I discovered hidden on my bookshelves is a copy of “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK”, published in 1970 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company (what tickles me most is the discovery that I only paid a dollar for it!). Many of the recipes that appear in “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOOK” appeared previously in the Los Angeles Time Home magazine and food sections, and sure enough, I recognize many of the recipes from my vast collection of newspaper recipes clipped in the 1960s.

And Jeanne Voltz acknowledged someone I didn’t know anything about, Fleeta Hoke, who was food editor of the Los Angeles Times until 1960, and home economics advisor until her retirement in 1964. Says Jeanne, “Many recipes developed and popularized during her (Fleeta Hoke’s) more than 20 years at the Los Angeles times frequently are republished by popular demand and are included here…” – as a matter of fact, Jeanne Voltz selected more than six hundred of her favorite recipes from the thousands that crossed her desk each year to fill the pages of “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK”.

“THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK” is an enormous contribution to the published collections of California cookbooks, written in Jeanne Voltz’s inimical, friendly style. And it was while I was looking through this treasure of California cuisine that I made another surprising discovery – Jeanne Voltz once wrote under the name of Marian Manners. I remember that name! And, you don’t have to live in California to appreciate something like “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK” – its pages are filled with scores of recipes from all over the world, the Orient, the Middle East, Europe and South America…but then, California has been a melting pot for hundreds of years.

Jeanne Voltz, passed away in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on January 17, 2002, of pneumonia. She was 81. She is survived by her children, Jeanne M. Voltz, a food stylist in New York, and Luther Manship Voltz, a Woodland Hills (California) soft ware engineer.

Jeanne Voltz was the author of the following cookbooks:

“FAMOUS FLORIDA RECIPES” (1955)
“THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK,” (1970)
“THE L.A. GOURMET”, (1971) CO AUTHORED BY BURKS HAMNER
“THE LOS ANGELES TIMES NATURAL FOODS COOKBOOK” (1973)
“HOW TO TURN A PASSION FOR FOOD INTO PROFIT” (with Elayne Kleeman) 1977
“THE FLAVOR OF THE SOUTH” (1977)
“AN APPLE A DAY”, (1981)
“GIFTS FROM A COUNTRY KITCHEN”, (edited) 1984
COMMUNITY SUPPERS AND OTHER GLORIOUS REPASTS, 1987
Barbecued Ribs, Smoked Butts and Other Great Feeds,” published in 1990 by Alfred A. Knopf.
THE COUNTRY HAM COOKBOOK

–Sandra Lee Smith

PUTTIN’ UP APPLESAUCE

This story was really my sister Becky’s—I was too young to remember this annual event. This is exactly what Becky wrote about it:

Picking apples and making applesauce was a family affair. We’d climb the apple trees and shake the limbs with all our might, and then ran around under the trees gathering up the apples. From there they went into a big wash tub that also substituted for our swimming pool in the summer. The women cored and quartered the apples. Then they were put into a big pot to simmer. When softened, they were poured into a sieve to strain off the skins and seeds. The sauce was put into hot sterilized jars and processed. Sugar wasn’t added until the jars were opened. We had applesauce with every meal all year long.

My Grandma Schmidt had sour apple trees growing in her back yard. I don’t remember if there was one or several of these trees. I do remember Grandma filling a little red wagon with them and instructing me to “take these apples to the sisters”. “The sisters” were the Franciscan nuns who lived in a house behind St Leo’s school. There was St Leo’s church and behind it, the priests’ house, then St Leo’s school, and just behind it, the convent. It always seemed slightly naughty to see the kitchen or living room of the nuns’ home. I remember having my piano lessons in their living room a few times and a sister was always working in the kitchen. I think I may have been given a piece of candy for delivering apples to the sisters.
Grandma would instruct a grandson to climb the biggest apple tree and shake the branches, to get the apples to fall. Then, it seems, every able-bodied female participated in making apple sauce. First all of the apples had to be peeled, and cored. Then they were quartered. And possibly the apples WEREN’T peeled, as I originally thought. But I think Grandma would have wanted the peels to feed to her chickens or a nasty goose that she kept in the backyard one year.

Thinking back on all of this, it’s quite possible that three kitchen stoves were put to use making applesauce, because my aunt and uncle lived on the third floor; Grandma and Grandpa had the entire second floor, and my parents had part of the first floor while another aunt and uncle lived in the other part.

When I was five, my parents bought their first home of their own, so they lived in my grandparents 3-storied brick house for nine years. My Aunt Dolly & Uncle Hans lived on the third floor for much longer, until they bought a house on North Bend Road. Uncle Hans was in the navy in WW2 so that may be why it took them longer. My Aunt Annie & Uncle Al must have moved out of Grandma’s house when I was still very young; I can’t remember them ever living there. They bought a saloon in partnership with Uncle Al’s brother and had a place called “Shille’s Café” out on East Miami River road, across from the river.

But getting back to the applesauce making.

Dusty boxes of canning jars, that everyone called “Mason jars” even though the name “Ball” was engraved on the side of the jar, were brought up from the cellar and I wonder now where they were stored throughout the year—maybe in grandpa’s wine cellar that was under the front porch. All of the jars had to be washed in hot soapy water and then scalded in boiling water. Outside my mother and one of the aunts, and my sister Becky, were peeling apples, cutting away the bad spots. When enough apples had been peeled and cored and chopped, they were dumped into a big pot and rinsed off, then water was added and the apples were put on top of a stove to start cooking. Grandma had a long handled wooden spoon for stirring. She was in charge of everything, never mind that her daughter and two daughters in law were grown women. Grandma was always in charge—sort of like a drill sergeant.

From somewhere in the depths of the cellar a cone-shaped sieve with an odd shaped wooden thing that looked like a misshapen cone shaped rolling pin was brought up to the kitchen and they all took turns feeding the cooked apples into the sieve and pushing the misshapen rolling pin around so that all the sauce was forced through the sieve. When there was ENOUGH applesauce, it went back into a pot on top of the stove, to heat until it was boiling. The applesauce was poured into the hot jars, lids tightly screwed on and the jars put down in yet another pot of boiling water to cook, after coming back to a boil, a certain length of time – perhaps twenty minutes or half an hour.

During the war years, no sugar was added to the applesauce even though those apples were pretty sour. What I DO remember is that, for years after, my mother kept jars and jars of applesauce in a cupboard in our basement on Sutter Street. She would open a jar to go with supper and we’d be allowed to sprinkle a little sugar on the applesauce to make it sweeter. Sugar, you know, was rationed during the War years.

We always had applesauce…even if it wasn’t sweetened. And we all loved Grandma’s apple strudel. Ah, that’s another story.

–Sandra Lee Smith

THINGS WE REMEMBER; GROWING UP IN CINCINNATI IN THE 30s, 40s & 50s

The following are vignettes of things that we remember from our childhood. While most of these childhood memories are intertwined, in some instances one sibling’s memories differ somewhat from another’s. For instance, Aunt Sandy only remembers watching Grandma Schmidt make diamond shaped Christmas cookies, that were studded with a mixture of sugar and finely chopped walnuts (and always thought those were the only kind Grandma made). . Aunt Becky chastised her, saying that Grandma made lots of different cookies for Christmas. Grandma baked, Aunt Becky recalled, thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam, and a fold-over cookie filled with apricot or peach jam. Grandma made Springerle cookies that were so hard you could not even bite into them, and a small pill-shaped cookie with colored sprinkles on top. Every family member got a dress box full of cookies for Christmas. All Aunt Sandy can say is…she only saw Grandma make the diamond shaped cookies and someone else must have eaten up all those other cookies!

In any case, these are our memories, of being children growing up in Fairmount, a suburb of Cincinnati, when Fairmount was still a nice neighborhood in which to live, of our relationships with Grandma Schmidt and each other, of going to St. Leo’s – where even our father, Uncle Hans, and Aunt Annie went to school and where we all had the same First Grade teacher, Sister Taursisius, who taught first graders for 50 years, until she retired to the Convent in Oldenburg, Indiana.

Fairmount was at that time a stable, friendly neighborhood, heavily populated with German and Italian immigrants, where it was safe for children to play in the streets on summer nights or walk to the pony keg to get a bottle of “pop”, where you knew families for blocks around and very often, the children you went to school with had gone to school with your parents..

My sister Becky was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2000, and had her first surgery in October, 2000. Our mother passed away September 29, 2000, about a week before Becky’s surgery. The memorial service for our mother was delayed to give my sister time to recuperate and, if possible, be able to attend the family gathering in Florida the following spring.

Around this time, Becky began sending those of us with computers memories of her childhood. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted, I think, to get all of these memories written down while she was still able. The idea took off and I began collecting all of these memories—often learning, much to my surprise, things about my siblings that I never knew. (She also sent some of these memoirs to Reminisce magazine; some were published).

Initially, I thought we could combine the memoirs with the family cookbook which was finally beginning to see the light of day. However, adding all of our memories (much less all the old photographs) would have made the cookbook project far too expensive. Then I began exploring the idea of putting together a booklet of all our memories, with photographs, to give to all of my sister’s children and grandchildren, the nieces and nephews, as well as others who loved her. As I continued to work on this project, I finally realized that what I had in my hands was the nucleus of a memorial booklet for my sister. As time went by, we began to realize Becky was not going to recover from this illness.

When I visited my sister in June, 2004, I took along the half-completed memory booklet to show to her, presenting it with the idea it would be a booklet for her children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, so they would learn more about their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If she suspected that I was working on a memorial tribute to her, she gave no indication. My sister passed away October 10, 2004.

Aunt Becky remembers…. “When I was 3 years old, the house painters were painting the house trim. They broke for lunch and left the ladder going to the roof up from the second floor porch. The family noticed that people were pointing up at the house. They went out on the porch to find me climbing the ladder. The only person who had the courage to go after me was Aunt Annie who was home recovering from her operation. Her appendix had ruptured and she had emergency surgery….”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Every fall, our grandparents ordered a butchered hog. The women and children worked in grandma’s second floor kitchen and the men went to the basement to make the sausages. My job was to chop hog fat into tiny cubes to be rendered into lard. Used lard was saved to make lye soap. The men in the basement would make the sausage mixture. One of them would get a balloon-like casing from a jar. After it was rinsed in cold water, he blew into the casing to check for holes. It was then threaded onto a pipe that protruded from the bottom of the stuffer machine. One of them would turn the hand crank and the other guided the sausage into the casing. If a hole appeared, they had to tie a knot in the casing and start a new sausage. For weeks after this, grandpa’s little smoke house was a huffin’ and a puffin’ streams of smoke. After the hams and sausages were smoked, they were hung from the rafters in the garage for the winter…”

Aunt Becky remembers…Coal was usually bought during the summer months. The deliveryman would dump the load into the driveway, and because the men were working, it was left to women and children to get the winter’s supply of coal from the driveway, into the coal bin in the basement. The kids loaded chunks of coal into a wheelbarrow, then one of the ladies wheeled it to the window of the coal bin, using wooden planks to span the steps. By the end of the day we were as black as the coal and very tired.”

Aunt Becky remembers.. “ I was in the third grade when mom decided I needed piano lessons. My mother loved music and loved to dance, and so dancing lessons ceased and piano lessons began. I loved the dancing class but my teacher, Miss Edith, moved out of the public school on Baltimore Street and into her own studio in Western Hills, so it was difficult to attend her classes. The four of us older children all had dance classes, Sandy, Jim, Biff , and I. My sister Sandy and I took piano lessons at St. Leo’s school and Jim learned to play the clarinet. Jim & I were also in the school band at St. Leo’s.

Aunt Sandy remembers… “I took tap-dancing lessons at North Fairmount School when I was in kindergarten. What I remember best about those lessons is that, at the end of the year, we had a recital at Garfield School in Northside. We wore costumes to make us look like little flowers, that our mothers made out of crepe paper. Someone in the family gave me a box of candy after the recital. I don’t think I was a very good tap-dancer but I loved getting a box of “real grown-up candy..as for those piano lessons. I think I took piano in the 5th and 6th grades. My piano lessons coincided with Arithmetic lessons—and consequently, I didn’t learn fractions until I was a senior in high school. I hated arithmetic; no way was I going to confess to Sister Doris Marie that I wasn’t learning fractions! I can’t imagine how I got away with it…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “We recycled everything! Gift wrap paper was saved from year to year. Ironing made it as good as new. Even cloth ribbons were ironed and recycled. Until my mother was no longer able to put up her own Christmas tree, she saved her tinsel from one year to the next. Our tree always remained up until my birthday, January 7th. This made me feel special…”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “One year mom & dad visited me in California during the Christmas holidays. As we were taking down the tree, mom said “Sandy! Don’t you save all your tinsel?”
“Oh, no mom!” I said, “It’s so cheap—we’ll just get a new box next year”.
To which she loftily replied, “Well! That’s why I get to go to Hawaii and you don’t!”

Aunt Becky remembers…“Our grandparents owned an 11-room, 3-family house on Baltimore Avenue. When I was in the third grade, my parents bought their first home and so we moved three miles away. BUT—every day for lunch we walked from school to Grandma’s. Although I was very happy to have my own room (shared with my younger sister), I missed my grandparents’ home terribly. As we grew into young adults, we still spent Mondays with grandma, having supper and watching black & white TV programs. Aunt Sandy’s comment: I spent one night a week at Grandma’s all through high school. Sometimes getting to and from Mercy High School on Werk Road involved as many as 3 buses each way..”

Aunt Becky remembers… “One of my fondest memories was going to Coney Island on Findlay Market day…the games, prizes, and free ride tickets and 5 cent pop (sodas). We rode the street car to downtown Cincinnati, toting a picnic basket full of food for the day. After a brief walk to the Riverfront, we boarded the Island Queen for the boat trip by river to Coney Island. Grandma sat guard over our things while we children raced from ride to ride. When the park closed, we would catch the last boat back to Cincinnati. We slept the entire ride by streetcar to the end of the line. We then had to walk the two or three blocks home.”

Aunt Becky remembers…Picking grapes for jelly, and grandpa making wine in the cellar. The basement always had the smell of fermenting grapes. Watching grandma make strudel and noodles. Grandma would hang the paper thin noodles over the backs of the dining room chairs to dry. Riding the street car into town. Going to the “Orange Bar” for our free sample of a fruit drink. My favorite was orange and pineapple mixed. After grandma made her rounds of paying bills, we went to the butcher shop where she purchased lunchmeats and fruit. When we went to a movie with grandma, we ate our lunch with freshly baked rye bread sticks. Soooo good. I remember picking peaches and making peach jam. Grandma made her special “Peach Brandy..”.

Aunt Becky remembers … “The smell of smoke coming from grandpa’s smoke house. Grandma also had a copper still that sat on the stove, newly polished, complete with a crocheted doily on top! We blew bubbles over the second floor porch railing. We stuffed grandpa’s pipe with soap, then dipped the pipes into a glass of water and blew with all our might!…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “In spite of what Bill thinks he was eating, I’m sure it was the white blocks of oleo*. When it first came out, it was a white block and looked just like lard. It progressed to a plastic bag with an orange dot that you kneaded into the white oleo to make it yellow (margarine). Mom never bought lard; she saved her drippings and used that. Lard was bought in tin buckets. We got our cottage cheese in crocks from the milk man. You had to return them; that’s why they are so rare. It was the same with milk bottles. They were returned to the milk man. We bought our yeast from the bakery. You went in and asked for a piece. They wrapped it in parchment paper. On Sundays after church we had to enter the grocery store by the back door because they were closed on Sundays. Zippels was on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Carl Street. We also shopped at Schneider’s – they were across the street from St. Leo’s. Schneider’s had the best penny candy. They had a big glass case up in front of the store…” (*Billy told his daughters he ate lard sandwiches when he was growing up).

Aunt Becky remembers… “Next door to Schneider’s was Irene’s Beauty Shop. I got several perms there. It was AWFUL! They put these wires on your head and heated them up. They were very heavy and burned my head. I always had frizz for weeks. Sometimes mom would take the curling iron to my hair; more than once I got my ears burned…”

Aunt Sandy remembers…. “Our birthday parties!. Mom would bake and decorate a cake for the birthday child. We were able to invite a few friends. We played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and drop a clothespin into a milk bottle. It was very exciting, waiting for your birthday to arrive..”.

Aunt Becky remembers… “Helping my mother on wash day. We didn’t use store-bought detergent back then! On Laundry Day, you grated mom’s lye soap into the wringer- washing machine full of steaming hot water. You had to use a laundry stick to retrieve the clothes from the washer. In the back yard, clothes lines were strung from tree to post waiting for the newly cleaned laundry to be hung. My job was to hang socks on a wooden rack to dry. When the socks were dry, I had the chore of matching up the pairs of socks. When I grew older, I was taught how to darn the socks…”

Aunt Becky remembers…“When Grandma decided to cook sauerkraut, she would send me down to Zippels to buy 25 cents worth of kraut. I loved it and ate more than my share on the way home. Then grandma would claim they CHEATED her. I just kept my mouth shut! When we needed a cat, we could always count on getting one from Zippels. More than once I brought a kitten home. There is a family story about me and a cat. It seems the family was painting the kitchen on the first floor. While they were having lunch I decided to paint the cat. Well! The cat was having none of this and he scratched me. I got even, though—I bit his TAIL! Every time I had to go to the grocery store, they’d call out, “Here comes the little girl who bites cats”!…”

Aunt Becky remembers.. “What Grandma Schmidt cooked for us when we went to her house for dinner on Monday nights, and of course, our lunches when we were at St Leo’s school. We’d walk to Grandma’s for a hot lunch. I remember once helping to make some kind of farina dumplings. I loved them in chicken broth. You take an egg and break it into a tea cup, then whip it and add farina until you have a dough. Then you drop it from a teaspoon into the broth. We all remember Grandma’s pancakes. I remember her making a sweetened sour cream as a topping, and her whipped orange Jello with cherries mixed in. I think she also added cherry juice to the Jello. For holiday dinners, there was always a relish tray with olives, sweet midget pickles and celery sticks. Her salads always had the milk-vinegar-sugar dressing on them. We didn’t have bottled salad dressings back then!”

Uncle Bill remembers…. “Coney Island! Loved the games! I think we all won at something. I loved Sunlight pool too—the big sand box! I didn’t know grandma had a still, but I do remember having apple throwing fights and eating green apples. And going on ‘dates’ with my big sisters. Now I realize that you may not have had any choice in the matter…but what I didn’t realize then was that we were a form of ‘protection’ too. Going Christmas shopping with Sandy—amazing what we were able to buy with 100 pennies!..”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Coney Island! We all loved going there, once a year. I have only the vaguest memories of going there by boat. I remember mostly the car trips to Coney. You wouldn’t be able to go to sleep the night before, just being so excited about it. You knew we were almost there when we crossed ‘The humming bridge’. One time mom let my friend Carol go along with us. Carol went on the Ferris wheel with Biff & Bill. I was too chicken….”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Memorial Day”! . Marching with the school band from St. Bonnie’s on Queen City Avenue to the cemetery on Baltimore Avenue. I played the symbols. After a brief rest, we then stood on the corner by Grandma’s house (next door to the cemetery!) and sold flowers to people on their way to visit the graves. We’d call out ‘Flowers for sale! Fifty Cents a bunch!’ At the end of the day, Grandma always gave us a dollar!”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “For about a month before Memorial Day, mom made hundreds of artificial flowers out of tissue paper and crepe paper. We sold these on the corner by the cemetery, too…that march from St. Bonnie’s to the cemetery on Baltimore Street seemed to take forever. Your legs ached for days afterwards”

Aunt Becky remembers…Picking apples and making applesauce was a family affair. We’d climb the apple trees and shake the limbs with all our might, and then ran around under the trees gathering up the apples. From there they went into a big wash tub that also substituted for our swimming pool in the summer. The women (mom, Aunt Dolly, and Grandma) cored and quartered the apples. Then they were put into a big pot to simmer. When softened, they were poured into a sieve to strain off the skins and seeds. The sauce was put into hot sterilized jars and processed. Sugar wasn’t added until the jars were opened. We had applesauce with every meal all year long.

Uncle Bill remembers…. “Making Christmas tree ornaments from the foil milk bottle lids…Mom’s old white radio. Playing Monopoly on the front porch on Sutter Street. My first bicycle—a green, ugly girl’s bike! But—it was a bike! A couple of years later, Cousin Chuck gave me his 24” Huffy bike. I loved it! Johnny had an English 3 speed but that Huffy was much better on the trails in Mt. Airy Forest…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “During the war years we washed all our tin cans, removing both ends, and flattening the cans. On Mondays, the cans were boxed and set out by the curb for pickup. We also saved newspaper, old rags, and iron. Even my grandparents’ brass bed made its way to the curb for the war effort. My mother was expecting her 4th child, so my father was spared the draft. I did my part by writing weekly letters to our uncles who were in the service. Everyone had a Victory Garden. For ten cents you could buy saving stamps. We pasted them into a little booklet. When the booklet was filled, you could turn it in for a savings bond. Food, shoes, meat, and gas were rationed. You had to have a ration stamp or a token to buy any of these items. If memory serves me right, it took 5 stamps to purchase a pair of shoes. With 4 growing children, these stamps were depleted fast…”

Uncle Bill remembers… “Staying in those little cabins when we went on road trips. Only once do I remember staying at a motel, somewhere along the Pennsylvania turnpike. It was late at

night; I think mom made dad stop. I still feel nostalgic when I see those little cabins along some of the rural highways. I remember sitting in the front seat between mom & dad. I knew every detail of the dash board; I can still see the radio grill and all the radio buttons. There was a little button to the left of the radio—well, a pull type knob; might have been a manual choke. Aunt Becky’s comment….imagine taking trips in a car with NO air conditioning in the car, four little kids and three adults! Aunt Sandy’s note…Grandma usually went with us on these trips. She was a gypsy at heart and would go anywhere, anytime, on a moment’s notice. Uncle Jim thinks we must have all inherited that gypsy blood. It seems to me we always started these trips in the dead of night so all of us children would sleep the first 5 or 6 hours of the way. We each took our own pillow along. How in the world was there enough room in the car for all of us?…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “I think we went to Lake Erie, the one near Detroit, because we visited Dad’s cousin, Sue, who lived in Detroit. This was the last year I took a vacation with the family because I got married the following October when I was 15 going on 16. I remember going to a dance in the town with our cousin Jack. The dress I wore was one I had bought myself to attend a high school dance and that was in the 10th grade. I had bought the dress downtown at a store called “Robert Halls”—it was located in an alley and everything was on plain racks!”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Jack’s sister Pat and I became pen-pals that year. She was my very first pen-pal. We also went to see Niagara Falls—I think that was the same trip. We all remember that we were supposed to be going to see the Statue of Liberty in New York. Dad got lost and wouldn’t ask for directions—we didn’t make it to New York City! Dad would never stop and ask for directions!”

Uncle Bill remembers… “Robert Halls! I recall the jingle! When the prices go up-up-up and the values go down-down-down…Robert Halls is the reason…I bought a red blazer one Christmas from Robert Halls. Everyone in our “gang” was getting a coat or a suit to wear to Midnight Mass that year…”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Bills comment about the red blazer reminded me – Jim bought me my first suede jacket when he was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. Everyone I knew had a suede jacket; it was the ‘in’ thing along with poodle skirts. Jim sent the money for me to get one. Mom thought he had sent too much and gave me only half of the money. I still found a suede jacket. No matter how cold it was, you wore the suede jacket-even with two sweaters on underneath!”

Uncle Bill remembers… “Feast of St. Nicholas—sock full of nuts, oranges and hard candy. Feast of Three Kings—grandma’s doughnuts with a nickel inside! I think I only had 2 or 3 piano lessons—mom gave up on me quickly! Roller skating at Price Hill Roller rink…Ice skating on the lakes behind the house in North College Hill. Biff’s coercion to build tree houses, underground camps, a rocket ship! I suppose the construction crews knew we were taking off with their wood and nails…ran out of camp building supplies when the housing development was completed! Summer passes to NCH swimming pool; sock hops on Friday nights. Everybody brought their 45 records. You’d mark yours with nail polish—no magic markers back then!”

Aunt Becky remembers… “When Halloween rolled around, we went out to “trick or treat” two nights; October 30th was known as “penny night”. We went from door to door begging pennies. When we got tired of this we headed to Grandma’s for our treats. It was always a tradition in our family to make doughnuts on Halloween eve. Grandma made deep fried yeast doughnuts—but she always added her own special treat—money! Grandma put pennies or a nickel or even a dime into her doughnuts. Grandma also made these special doughnuts on the Feast of the Three Kings in January.”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Halloween! Didn’t we all love it? It went well with the Schmidt belief that anything free had to be good. I always thought that concept stemmed from mom but now I think it was really Grandma Schmidt. Every time Grandma took me with her downtown to pay her insurance, we picked up free booklets at Metropolitan. Then we’d head for the Juice Bar to get a free sample of juice.”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Going downtown by myself by the time I was 9 or 10 years old. Mom had a coat in layaway at Lerner’s. She’d send me with a $1.00 to make her coat payment. I learned my way around downtown by visiting all the dime stores. By the time I was 12, I was taking both of my little brothers Christmas shopping the day before Christmas. We’d also visit all the department store Santas to get a free peppermint stick. We’d trek on over to Garfield Park to see the living nativity and afterwards, we’d go to Grandma’s to wait for Dad to come and get us. By the time we got home, Santa Claus had visited and we always just missed him! We wrapped our presents in recycled gift wrap that we “ironed” to get the wrinkles out!”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Mom’s kidney stew! I loved the stew but hated to smell it cooking, and I make my liver and onions just the way she taught me. I soak the liver in vinegar water overnight, then dredge it in flour and brown it in hot bacon grease, turning only once. Then I cover it with sliced onions and add water to cover, put the lid on the skillet and let it simmer until the liver is done. NO RED! I like to serve it with boiled potatoes and baby peas. Kidney stew was always served with noodles and peas, also. Mom also liked to soak the kidneys overnight in vinegar water. I was always leery of Mom’s hamburgers because they looked so much like breaded brains. YUCK! One time I saw Martha Stewart showing how to cook and eat the marrow fat. Dad loved the marrow on crackers. Those bones were free at one time. Not any more!..”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Mom’s hasenpfeffer! I hated it. It wasn’t the rabbit (which dad brought home from hunting—it was the sickly sweet and sour smell of the rabbit cooking and knowing I was going to have to eat it. One time the family was at mom’s friend Vera’s for dinner. They told me we were having fried chicken and I loved it. After we were finished eating, they all shouted “YOU JUST ATE RABBIT!” I’ve been trying to tell them all for years – it wasn’t the rabbit. It was the way Mom cooked it! And smelling it cooking!. Regardless, I never buy rabbit…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “I learned a lot of dances from my mother. She wanted to be a professional dancer. I just loved to dance. Don’t we all? Mom taught me to Charleston, Foxtrot, two-step, Varsity drag, and Camel Walk. The Camel Walk has returned twice as other dances, one as a circle dance called ‘The Bird Land’ and again as a line dance called ‘The Stroll’. In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, the always had dances someplace on Saturday nights. We called them ‘Drink & Drowns’. For $5 a person you got live music, beer, pop, potato chips, and pretzels. The dances we did were the Bunny Hop, Huckle Buck, Hokey Pokey, Mexican Hat Dance, Bird Lane, Mashed Potato, Swim, Stroll, Jitter Bug, Camel Walk, and Cha Cha. Today the young people are learning the Swing Dances. We called the dances Jitter Bug and the music was Swing. One dance we did at the skating rink was the Shottish. At the end of every dance the band played “GOOD NIGHT SWEETHEART”.

Aunt Sandy remembers…. “Blowing bubbles with grandpa’s pipes (how did we get away with that?)…running down to the corner where the street car line ended, to meet grandpa coming home from work. I’d carry his black lunchbox…Going with grandma and grandpa to their “lodge” down near Findlay market. On our way home (by streetcar!) we’d get White Castle hamburgers on the corner in Camp Washington where we transferred cars…I think the hamburgers were 5 cents each…Playing mom’s 78 rpm records while I dusted the furniture on Saturday morning…taking scrambled egg sandwiches wrapped in wax paper to school for lunch. The wax paper would sort of melt into the sandwich by lunch time. (that must have been on days when grandma wasn’t home!)…Sitting on the 2nd floor porch waiting for the ice cream man on summer nights…the bubble lights on Grandma Schmidt’s Christmas tree. No one else had them!”

Aunt Becky remembers…“Sitting on Grandma’s second floor porch in the summer and listening to the radio. Monday night was Baby Snooks, Fibber McGee & Molly. Saturday morning was Let’s Pretend and My Little Margie. Friday night was Suspense, Inner Sanctum, and The SHADOW! Grandma made snow cones for us. She placed ice cubes in a dish towel and with a hammer, she smashed the ice; then she put the ice into a mug and topped it off with homemade jam or jelly…”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Sunday passes! Grandma would get a pass for 25 cents and if you were the lucky grandchild to be with her at the time, you would ride all over town, sometimes up to the Cincinnati Zoo. Grandma and Grandpa liked to get the Sunday passes and attend the German Mass at St. Joseph’s. We all learned our way around town on those Sunday passes…” Aunt Becky recalls those were her first experiences visiting the Art Museum and Taft Museum.

Aunt Becky remembers… “Grandma had us take turns going to town with her. It was GREAT FUN and the only place to shop back then. No malls! All the department stores were downtown. The public toilets were under Fountain Square and you had to pay 5 cents to use them, so grandma had me crawl under the door and unlock it so she could get in and go. The first thing we did when we got off the bus at Government Square was to go right to the Orange Juice Bar where you could get a free sample—and the last thing we did before getting back on the bus was return to the Juice bar for another free sample. FREE was good. You could have them mix your juices; my favorite was pineapple with grape. We would go pay the gas and electric bill, then the telephone bill, and then go to the Insurance Company where they had all these little free booklets. We’d get one of each. Some times we went and bought lunchmeat and rye salt bread and went to the Albee Theatre. It was also on Fountain Square. Grandma loved the movies!”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Grandma and Grandpa belonged to a German club in Over the Rhine. They held Bingo at St. Joseph’s Church and there were dances. We kids got to sell baskets of chips and pretzels for 5 cents each bag. And we got five cents to keep for ourselves for every bag we sold. The women played their card games and the men played theirs. It was a day-long event. When it was dark they had the dances. By then all of us kids were cuddled up on chairs fast asleep. We still had to walk to the street car and after the ride home we had to walk up Baltimore Avenue to the house. They did not have bus service until English Woods opened during the war years. Aunt Rainy lived in English Woods with Renee and Pete. Uncle Vince was in the service. So were Uncle Hans, Uncle George and Uncle Cal. Dad was exempt because he had 3 children and was doing war work at Formica. Aunt Dolly also worked at Formica. Everyone was doing their part….”

We remember… “The Windmill Restaurant. It was a special treat to go there with Grandma, just the two of you. It was a cafeteria style restaurant and you could choose your own food! What a thrill! Choosing your own food!”

We remember… “Tinkertoys…Erector Sets…Lincoln Logs…Penny Candy…5 cent packs of baseball cards…Green stamps…Telephone numbers with a prefix (ours was Kirby 8846)…old time radio programs (Baby Snooks, Fibber McGee & Molly, Charlie McCarthy)…walking every where! No one ever drove you places….Grandma’s oilcloth shopping bags that she’d fill with fruit and vegetables at Findlay Market—and the lucky child who went shopping with her got to help carry those bags on the street car or bus!”

We remember… “Playing cards with grandma. One of the first games we learned was Michigan Poker. Another favorite game was Skit Scat. We learned about money and how to make change. Aunt Becky recalls learning to count by the time she was three—except, after 9, 10—it was Jack, Queen, King, Ace! Grandma supplied the money and if we won, we got to keep it. On holidays, all the adults played cards. Grandma usually cooked the Christmas turkey. Uncle Al gave us each a quarter and all the children went to the movies. For 25 cents, you had admission and enough money for candy or popcorn. (We all thought Uncle Al must be rich to do this!) We always got Boston Baked Beans or JuJuBees because you got the most for your money that way. We went to the Carl Street movie theatre and after that closed down, to the Queen Ann or West Hills Theatre. If the movie was good, we stayed to see it again. It didn’t occur to any of us that the adults were happy to get all of us out from underfoot so they could play cards all afternoon!”

We remember… “Christmas Eve was the biggest holiday in our family. Mom did everything on Christmas Eve day. The living room door was locked all day long. Mom waited until December 24th to buy a tree because by then they were half-price. Trees cost a whopping $1.00 back then but she could get one for 50 cents by waiting. Mom always tried to have Santa bring us what we had asked for. Our dolls disappeared before Christmas and reappeared on Christmas Eve with new outfits. We’d be at Grandma’s house waiting, on Christmas Eve, until Dad came to get us. We always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. Silent Night would be playing on the record player. The tree would be trimmed with handmade ornaments we made in school over the years. One year, Uncle Biff gave Dad a little wax Santa boot filled with peppermints. All the adults laughed over that boot! Biff was offended and went upstairs to cry. All the adults had to go upstairs and convince him that they really liked the little wax Santa boot and they’d only laughed because they liked it…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “There was no such thing as ‘Snowdays’! No matter how deep the snow or how cold the wind, we all walked to and from school (sometimes walking backwards to keep the wind out of your face). Some days the school did not have heat and we had to keep our coats and leggings on to stay warm. By mid-afternoon the heat was on again and we could remove our coats but we kept the leggings on. (These were woolen pants that came with your winter coat). Girls never wore slacks or pants except for those leggings (which itched). The girls all had winter hats with a nice long scarf attached to wrap around your neck. Grandma crocheted these for us…”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Our house on Sutter Street was close to the railroad tracks. Often, men and sometimes women would knock on the back door and ask for a bite to eat. Most often, mom gave them a bowl of cereal. They would sit on the back steps and eat their fill.”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Wash Boards! Mom did not have an automatic washing machine. She got her first clothes dryer in 1954 when Tina (first grandchild) was a baby. It was my job to scrub the socks. I’d slip my hand inside the sock and soap it up with the lye soap. Then I rubbed my hand over the wash board to clean the sock. This was also done on collars and cuffs of shirts.”

Aunt Sandy remembers…”Playing restaurant with my younger brothers! Mom usually worked—I think she was the only mother on our street who had an outside job. I’d make lunch for Biff and Bill—there were always little leftovers in the refrigerator (mom never threw out anything—even if it was only a teaspoonful of creamed peas!) I’d make up a menu for my brothers and they could “order” whatever they wanted for lunch. I learned to bake with mom’s one and only cookbook, an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook. My brothers sat out on the back step and ate up all the mistakes. They never cared if the cookies were under baked or burnt! I think I was also the only girl on our street with a free reign in the kitchen. I baked a lot of cookies..”.

Aunt Sandy remembers…”Playing school. We had a shed in the back yard on Sutter Street. It was our “school”, “playhouse” and “The 3-star store” (Carol, Patty & I made things out of yarn, pipe cleaners, macaroni, paper mache, and acorns—which we sold to the neighborhood children). Our “school” was an ongoing summer activity which we all took seriously. We even gave our students (my brothers, Patty’s brothers, and the other younger neighborhood children) homework to do and they’d better have a written excuse from their mother if they didn’t bring in their homework the next day!”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Having shows. These were held in our backyard, where we could hang blankets and curtains from the swing set. In one of these shows, I wore Becky’s 8th grade graduation dress and my Easter hat to sing “Dear Hearts and Gentle People”. In another show, we performed Red Riding Hood. I was supposed to be the wood chopper who saves Red Riding Hood—but had gone into the house for something and forgot all about my part. Jim was the wolf – he had no other choice but to kill Red Riding Hood and eat her, since no one came to rescue her. We had such a lot of fun doing these shows. We sold popcorn and Kool Aid. One of my clearest memories is mom teaching us the words to “Red River Valley” so we could sing it in our show. Years later, Renee sent me a letter mom had sent to her mother, Aunt Rainy. Aunt Rainy wrote about their putting on shows when they were children….”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Playing in the cemetery next to Grandma’s house. These were actually just large grassy grounds on a hillside—the graves were up out of sight, beyond a long switchback driveway. We’d roll down the hillsides or chase lightning bugs, or play hide and seek – until “Old Man Reinhart” (the custodian) came charging down the driveway yelling at us. Then we all ran in terror!”

Aunt Becky remembers…“Tin Panning a wedding! We could hardly contain our excitement when there was a wedding in the neighborhood. We patiently sat on the front steps to wait for the wedding party to return from church. When they arrived back at the bride’s house, we gathered up pots and pans and big spoons—anything that would make a lot of noise. We then all stood in front of the bride’s home and beat the dickens out of mom’s pots and pans. We kept up the racket until the bride and groom appeared and tossed us money and candy. This ritual was to bring the newlyweds good luck and many children. After we had chased away all the evil spirits, we headed to the corner store for our favorite candy bar. Mine was, and still is “French Chews”. Even when I was young, “Tin Panning the wedding” was fading, just like tying tin cans on the back of the wedding car and throwing rice for good luck has faded away—now they toss birdseed!”

Aunt Becky remembers… “Curtain stretchers! When it was time for mom to wash the curtains in the summer, she had these large wooden frames with nails all around the edges. First she set the frames to the size of the curtains. These frames had numbers written on the outside. After the curtains were washed and heavily starched, she would begin the stretching by hooking the corners and centers over the nails. Then I had to pull the curtains over the nails, trying to keep the ruffles even. More than once I stuck my finger onto these sharp nails. Sometimes we had to re-wet the curtains, especially if it was a windy day and they were drying out too fast. The frames held several pairs of curtains. Once dried, the curtains were so stiff they could stand up on their own. Once dry the curtains had to be re-hung on the windows. Mom inserted a knife into the curtain rod so as not to snag the lace on the ends of the rods. Vinegar and water was used to clean the windows. We did not have stored-bought window cleaner. When it was time to clean the Venetian blinds, they were taken down and laid on top of the kitchen table. Then slat by slat, I had to wash and rinse every one. This job was very time consuming. I dreaded this chore with a passion. Until we purchased our present home and it came furnished with Venetian blinds, I refused to have them in my home”.

Aunt Becky remembers … “We were all very competitive. Once our mother entered the games at Coney Island on Findlay Market day. She won the three-leg race and got a silver tray. When she was younger she entered a dance contest at Camp Washington Summer dances. During the 20s and 30s, the local swimming pool was drained and they held dances in them at night. I believe this is how my mother met my father. My father and his pal, Vince Laehr, took dance lessons from Author Murray so they could date my mother and her young sister (Aunt Rainey). My dad called my mom “Beck”, short for Beckman. When I was born, my dad called me “Lil’ Beck” and it stuck. This is how I got my nickname. My given name is Barbara; I was the 4th Barbara on my mother’s side of the family. She had a great Aunt Barb, her mother’s name was Barbara; mom’s middle name was Barbara and I was named Barbara. And my great-great grandmother on my father’s side was also named Barbara. I passed this tradition on by naming my second daughter Barbara.”

Aunt Sandy remembers…“The house on Sutter Street. It was my parents first home of their own. Jim was given the responsibility of walking Biff and me to the new house. As we reached the stop of the steps that led to Sutter Street, a big moving van truck was parked in front of the house. Biff and Bill setting fire to the kitchen table. The hole Dad cut into the pantry floor, so that mom could drop the laundry into it, where it fell into a cupboard in the basement, near the washer and dryer. (One time we were playing hide & seek in the house and Biff got stuck in that hole). Renee and I taking turns, on Fridays after school, going to either her house or mine & calling home to ask if I/she could spend the night. (Usually, the answer was no, but we were never discouraged). There was a mud cellar in our basement—two finished off basement rooms and this one room that was filled with rock-hard mud. My brothers liked to play cars in the mud cellar. One time Patty and Carol & I were playing “club” in the basement; I went upstairs to answer the phone and they came barreling up after me, convinced that a “dead body” was in the mud cellar. I went to check – and found a pair of Dad’s wading boots hanging from the rafters. We laughed over that for many years.”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Our Dogs! Lady, and Mike, Pepper, Nipper, and Scrappy. Mike was the best—he was a skinny black lab; we taught him tricks like jumping over the Back family’s fence that bordered the alley. Monopoly games on rainy summer days. Hanging Dad’s stockings (they were the biggest) on the pantry door, on the Feast of St. Nicholas. We’d get a tangerine and some hard candy and maybe a little toy…. Sitting around the kitchen table, doing our homework, and listening to radio shows (Mr. & Mrs. North, My Friend Irma, The Lone Ranger, Lights Out, Inner Sanctum, The Cisco Kid, the Aldrich Family, Amos and Andy, the Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly, Baby Snooks, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Burns & Allen, the Life of Riley, Suspense…one time I entered a contest sponsored by Suspense (twenty five words or less why you liked Suspense…and I won a radio, which I gave to mom…come to think of it, that was the first time I got something for my writing…”

Aunt Sandy remembers… “Our camp (Wee home) on the White Water River. How I hated it – until my mother threw a surprise 15th birthday party for me and we all went down to the camp for the day, and roasted weenies! (It was not so bad when my brothers and I rode our bikes all over the area, sometimes as far as Harrison, Indiana). We played endless games of 500 Rum to pass the time away. I learned to fish with Uncle Cal. On the way down and the way back, Dad would stop at United Dairy Farmers and we’d get an ice cream cone. You could get two dips of ice cream for a nickel – but three dips if you chose a sherbet. Guess what we usually chose?”

Aunt Sandy remembers….St. Francis Seminary! My brother Jim was going to be a priest and entered the seminary after 8th grade graduation. Once a month, everyone in the entire family went to visit him. We children enjoyed the huge grounds and going around collecting pine cones and acorns. Jim won’t tell this story so I will: he never really intended to be a priest. He was constantly falling asleep in class at St. Leo’s (no doubt from being up so late setting up pins at St. Bonnie’s). Sister threatened to hold him back. He told her ‘Gee, that’s too bad—I was planning to go into the priesthood’. Ergo, he graduated—but was committed to entering St. Francis’. Funny thing was, when he came home the following summer for vacation, he somehow lost his vocation…and entered Elder High School for his Sophomore year….”

Aunt Sandy remembers…I was the one in the middle. Becky and Jim were only 21 months apart and had each other. Biff and Bill, although 3 years apart, had each other to play cowboys and Indians and make little towns in the dirt in the back yard or the mud cellar. Not until years later did my relationship with my older sister develop (she always seemed so much older to me, like a grown-up) and it wasn’t until I became a teenager that Jim & I began hanging around with the same crowd and double-dating. My younger brothers always seemed like my responsibility, not people I shared my life with. But I had my two childhood friends, Carol Sue and Patty. Patty’s family moved into the house across the street from us on Sutter when I was about 7. I immediately volunteered to take Patty to school—since they were Catholic, like us, and “I knew the way”. Carol Sue was the youngest of three in her family, and a year younger than me. We three little girls were almost inseparable, growing up, except when we got mad at each other and vowed never to speak to one another again as long as we lived. When we were friends we constantly gave one another presents and when we became enemies we demanded all of our gifts be returned. My copy of “Little Women” went back and forth numerous times over the years.

Patty was seldom allowed the freedom to do the things Carol and I could do, such as riding our bikes all over the various neighborhoods—North Fairmount and South Fairmount, as far as Northside, and all the way to the end of Baltimore Avenue where it met up with West Fork road. Carol recalls that one time we were on our bikes, almost at the end of Baltimore where it goes downhill, when my bike encountered gravel and I went into a spin and flew off the bike just as a truck came barreling around the corner. I vaguely remember the fall and scraped knees but must have blocked the approaching truck out of my mind. Where Baltimore met West Fork, there was a Dairy Queen, Putz’s, where everybody went on summer nights to get an ice cream cone. Occasionally, Carol’s father drove us there for ice cream. I don’t think Patty’s father, Mr. Back, drove, and without a question, my father would never have driven three girls to Putz’s to get ice cream.

We learned the boundaries of our neighborhoods, riding our bikes. Mine was an old bicycle that had belonged to my mother and weighed a ton. It was a major accomplishment to grab hold of the bike and run, fast, up the steps to our house on Sutter Street (before you could lose your momentum).

When not riding or bikes, or roller skating, we played dress-ups. The old ladies on our street donated discarded dresses and lace curtains, their old shoes and purses to the cause. We’d dress up and parade up and down the street. When not doing that, we might be making doll clothes; we each had a box of discarded scraps of fabric given to us by our mothers and the neighbor ladies (primarily Mrs. Babel and Mrs. Silz. Their children were grown up and moved away, but they were infinitely patient and kind to the three of us, buying our four o’ clock seeds for a nickel or letting us run to the corner grocery store for them). Making doll clothes was a rainy-day affair, when there was nothing better to do. Another rainy day affair was Monopoly, which we magnanimously allowed our younger brothers to play with us. If we were not playing dress-ups or Monopoly or making doll clothes, we might be playing school (using the shed in my back yard for a school house) or we’d make things out of macaroni and acorns, to sell in our “Three Star Store” (we had a star-shaped rubber stamp, which is how the “store” got its name). When not doing any of these things, we might be sitting on Mrs. Babel’s porch swing, singing harmony (You are My Sunshine) and trying to put Patty’s little brother Bobby to sleep for a nap.

When we got a little older, I became interested in cooking and—since my mother allowed me free reign of the kitchen—we made brownies and cookies and sometimes got into heated debates over the best way to make icing. My young brothers sat on the back steps and ate up the mistakes. And, as we got older, we began double-dating.

My family moved away from Sutter Street first, to our new home in North College Hill. Then Carol Sue’s family moved to Mt. Healthy. Patty’s family was the last to leave Sutter Street. We three married and had children (four for me, three for Patty and four for Carol). I moved to California. Things changed…but not the friendship of three little girls.

Aunt Becky remembers… “It was during the mid 70s that I made the decision to return to school. I enrolled in art classes at the University of Cincinnati, DAA College. I was in good company. Lois Walsh, my best friend and sister in law was also attending classes, and so was my FAVORITE aunt, Dolly (Evelyn Schmidt). Aunt Dolly was interested in painting and drawing. I wanted to try it all. I began with a ceramic class; free form and potter’s wheel. One of the last classes I took was in 1984, ‘Foundry Sculpture’ class. I had a BLAST. Attending classes with kids who were 20 years younger than I was very enlightening. They were all very nice to me. I found that age has no barriers when you are interested in the same things. Some times I don’t think they took me serious. My brother Jim was also attending evening classes at this time. I suppose we were all late bloomers!

Christmas of 1978 I requested flying lessons. I was 42 years old and had a 2-year old grand daughter (Trisha). My youngest child was now 14 years old (Jimmy). And I felt like life was passing me by. The year Trisha was born, I went out and bought myself an organ and took organ lessons. Since I knew how to read music, it was just a matter of learning how to play bass with my feet. This would help me with flying. You steer the plane with your feet by stepping on the rudder pedals. If I was ever going to learn how to fly, the time was NOW!

I had always dreamed of flying. NOT in an airplane – I would float above the earth looking down. In my dreams I would take a running jump and leap off the ground and begin flying. I still have these dreams.

I soloed on March 6, 1979, and passed my exam on December 21, 1979. Helen York was my instructor. We had ONE hair raising experience!

One day, while we were practicing power on stalls, I froze when the plane stalled and went into a dive. Let me explain what a power on stall is. With full power you pull back on the yoke until the nose of the plane is pointing straight up. What happens is the plane stops flying because the wings can no longer provide lift. When this happened, the plane nodded over and went into a dive. You MUST push the yoke forward and get the plane to start flying in the direction of the fall. I had a death grip on the yoke and would not let go until I saw the trees coming up to meet us! Usually Helen would say ‘My Plane’ and I would let go of the yoke and she’d take over. She did not say this on that day. I panicked and let go of the yoke and she took over the plane. Helen recovered like the ace pilot she is and once we had a safe altitude, she told me to take the plane home. (Harrison Air Park). She told me later it was a good thing we were flying the aerobat because any other plane would have had the wings ripped off.

I took several other lessons with commercial pilots and learned more about stall recovery. Helen would go on to become a commercial pilot for Comair…”

–Sandra Lee Schmidt Smith

MOCK APPLE PIE & OTHER FOODIE WANNABEES

Al Sicherman, author of an entertaining little book titled “CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE” published by Harper & Row (1988), queries, “I don’t know why anybody would feel the need to make apple pie with Ritz crackers, since there is seldom a great apple shortage.” He proceeds to devote an entire chapter on mock foods, which includes the recipe for mock apple pie. The recipe, he says, came from a box of Ritz crackers.

Of the Mock Apple Pie, Sicherman says it looks like apple pie, which he considers rather amazing, but he doesn’t think it tastes anything at all like apple pie. If you were blindfolded, says Al, you would say it was lemon pie.

I think Al missed the point with mock apple pie and I wrote about it years ago in the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. Mock apple pie can actually be traced back to the American Civil War and the years of the great western pioneer migration that took place in the 1800s. Apples weren’t always cheap or plentiful way back when. It’s thought that mock apple pie was created during the Civil War by some enterprising chef, when apples and almost everything else imaginable was in short supply. It was made with ordinary crackers (although I think the crackers back then were a lot different from the Saltine crackers we eat today).

As a matter of fact, as I was sitting here asking myself how come I know this and was I sure, I found confirmation is Jeffrey Steingarten’s book titled “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING”. Steingarten notes, “In her FANNIE FARMER BAKING BOOK, Marion Cunningham includes a version based on soda crackers that, she writes, antedates the Civil War: American pioneers could transport and store sugar and crackers more easily than apples…” My guess is that I read this historical tidbit somewhere while researching the material for “Kitchens West”, published previously in the pages of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. (I didn’t find mock apple pie in the eleventh edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook but what I did find were recipes for mock Foie Gras, mock Hollandaise, and mock Maple Syrup).

The irony, of course, is that apples are cheaper today than a box of Ritz crackers so if you are going to make an apple pie, it might as well be the real thing. (For the record, I checked out the prices of these two items earlier this week at my favorite local supermarket. A couple varieties of apples are on sale several pounds for a dollar, while a box of Ritz crackers is over $2.00. Never mind how inexpensive a frozen apple pie is, or how easy it is to pop one of those into the oven).

Al Sicherman is (or at least was, at the time his book was published in 1988), a columnist for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and the series of chapters in “CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE” is based on articles about strange foods that appeared in his newspaper column. The first chapter is titled “THE MOCK FOOD MEAL” and appears to have been inspired, in part, by the sheet music to “Mockingbird Hill”.

Mockingbirds, of course, have nothing whatsoever to do with mock foods, but Al Sicherman is my kind of guy; he goes off on tangents and digresses almost as much as I do. His Mock Food Meal includes a recipe for Mockaguole, a mock recipe for guacamole that calls for two sticks of butter. I can feel my arteries hardening just reading the recipe. Al’s logic for the mock guac is that no body buys avocados well enough in advance so they will be ripe when you need them and he felt that buying the frozen kind of guacamole ranks right up there with frozen dinners. Well, I have to disagree—there are several excellent varieties of frozen guacamole available but this was written some years ago, so maybe the good stuff wasn’t in supermarkets back then. And, I have to admit—I live in Southern California where avocados are available almost year-round. I can even buy them in the local thrift bakery. Occasionally, a friend’s father sends me a shopping bag of avocados from his back yard. In our back yard in Arleta where Bob & I lived for almost 20 years, we had a huge, ancient avocado tree- that bore NO fruit until Bob & my son Kelly chopped down a massive dead tree branch. Shortly after that, we began enjoying a glut of avocadoes – over 200 that spring; I was making guacamole in large bowls to freeze for later.

(For the record, health-food and diet cookbooks often offer a recipe for Mock Guac made with peas. I just came across a Mock Guac recipe in a book called The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond, and it’s made with frozen petite peas. Diamond also offers a recipe for Mock Goat Cheese Dressing that actually sounds pretty good to me. Better than real goat cheese, anyway).

Included in Sicherman’s Mock Food Meal is his “MOCK MOCK TURTLE SOUP” which made me laugh. Guess what the principal ingredient is in every recipe Al found for mock turtle soup? To Al’s horror, it was a calf’s head. Al says he’s not cooking a calf’s head. However, some hundred years ago, people did cook calf’s heads as well as a lot of other strange animal body parts, and cookbooks from the 1800s are replete with instructions that begin with the instruction “take one Calf’s head”. As I recall from one of these old books, you held it by one ear as you dropped it into a pot of boiling water. My cousin, Renee, found a recipe in our maternal grandmother’s cookbook for mock turtle soup that starts out with the instructions, “Clean a calf’s head well and let it stand in salt and water two or three hours…”. Grandma also had a recipe for Mock Terrapin Soup that was made with calf’s liver. And, in Henrietta Nesbitt’s cookbook “THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK/or FEEDING THE ROOSEVELTS AND THEIR GUESTS, there is a recipe for Calf’s Head Soup that starts out “Scald head to remove hair but leave on the skin. Have it sawed so that brains and tongue can be removed…” ew, ew! With it, she served brain dumplings.

Incidentally, my facsimile copy of the 1896 Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer contains a recipe for mock turtle soup that starts out with…you guessed it….one calf’s head. It also contains a recipe for Mock Mince Pie that is made with “common crackers”.

In Cincinnati, my hometown, you can still buy mock turtle soup, made by the Worthmore Company, which is actually made with beef. In fact, I have a copy of my Aunt Annie’s recipe, which is made with a pound of ground beef. As for why calf’s head instead of real turtle—go to an old cookbook and read the instructions for killing a turtle—most of which are, I think, now endangered species. Ew, ew.

Sicherman’s recipe for Mock Mock Turtle Soup actually sounds really good to me.

He comments on mock chicken legs which, in the 1940s and 1950s, were made with veal—presumably veal was very inexpensive at the time. The meat was cut into pieces and pushed onto wooden skewers; then breaded and fried. Al suggests that we substitute sliced turkey or chicken breast for the veal. So if mock chicken legs (which we called “City Chicken” when I was a little girl in Cincinnati), are made with turkey or chicken instead of veal, wouldn’t they be mock mock too? And if you use turkey breast instead of veal to make Scaloppini or Wiener Schnitzel, would that make it mock Scaloppini or mock Wiener Schnitzel?

Incidentally, Sylvia Lovegren, in her fabulous book “FASHIONABLE FOOD”, published by Macmillan in 1995, provides a recipe for mock drumsticks, under the chapter heading “THE FORTIES”, and notes that, considering the reversal of prices since the 1940s, a thrifty cook would be much more likely to use chicken or turkey to make mock veal. So, now we should make mock drumsticks out of real chicken?

Lovegren quotes Mary J. Lincoln in her 1904 BOSTON COOK BOOK when she expressed the Anglo-Saxon horror of eating baby cows, stating “At its lowest price veal is never a cheap food when we take into consideration the small amount of nutriment it contains, the large amount of fuel to cook it, and the danger of being made ill by its use”.

Lovegren explains that veal had never been an American meat staple. (I don’t think I have ever eaten veal—unless my mother passed it off to us as something else, like chicken – the way they convinced me that fried rabbit was actually chicken one time when we were visiting her friend, Vera.)

Veal, however, was considered an inexpensive substitute for the “desirable high-priced chicken or turkey” which, in the 1940s, were not yet being raised in huge numbers by poultry factories.

Al Sicherman also provides a recipe for Mock duck which he found in a number of older cookbooks. This sounds like something that my sister in law used to make, that she called Dutch Turkey. Dee made a stuffing and rolled meat around it (I thought it was round steak; she says it was beef or pork ribs).

Sicherman finishes off his Mock Food Meal with Mock Hollandaise Sauce, a Grape-Nuts Mock Pumpkin Pie and the famous (or infamous, however you want to look at it) recipe for Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie.

While leafing through some older cookbooks, I found a recipe for mock ham that’s made with leg of lamb. This turned up in a copy of “MORE FOOD FOR THE BODY FOR THE SOUL” published by Moody Press in 1948. I can’t even begin to explain this one, unless it was to disguise leg of lamb with cloves, pineapple rings and brown sugar so that the people eating it would really think it was ham. You think? Maybe not. I told my son Steve (when he was about three years old and gullible) that the skillet of liver and onions cooking on the stove was Salisbury Steak. He never ate Salisbury Steak (much less liver and onions) again. The question is, would someone be fooled into believing that leg of lamb was really baked ham? People can be fooled into believing that Ritz cracker pie is apple pie, so who knows?

Curiously, I found a recipe for something called Mock Giroles in Jeanne Voltz’s “THE CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK”; it took searching through three dictionaries before I found Giroles defined in Larousse Gastronomique. Giroles is a kind of mushroom, specifically the popular name for a mushroom also known a chanterelle. Jeanne’s recipe for “mock” Giroles calls for half a pound of small mushrooms and doesn’t specify any particular kind. I am left to assume (knowing full well the dangers of assuming) that this was called “mock” Giroles since, perhaps, real Giroles are not readily available. On the other hand, it seems to me that a mushroom is a mushroom is a mushroom.

There is an interesting little book called “THE COOK’S TALES” by Lee Edwards Benning, published in 1992. The subtitle is “Origins of Famous Foods and Recipes” and each chapter is a letter of the alphabet. Under “M” I discovered “M is for Mock”.

Benning sheds quite a bit of light on the subject of mock foods, and says that the practice of creating mock versions of foods dates back to Apicius, the fellow from the first century who wrote the first cookbook and spent a fortune on food before he was twenty-three years old.

Writes Benning, “Apicius gives as his third recipe the methodology of making mock rose wine without rose leaves, substituting citron leaves and palm leaves and sweetening with honey. His fourth recipe is for making a mock expensive oil from a cheap one: Use inexpensive Spanish oil, add spices, stir frequently for three days, and then let stand…” Apicius assures us that everyone will believe it is Liburnium oil. Apicius also provides a recipe for making white wine out of red by adding bonemeal or three egg whites or the white ashes of the vine to the flask to bleach the wine. Benning asks why would Apicius resort to such ingredients – and comments that it certainly wasn’t for lack of money. More likely, writes Benning, Apicius experimented when ingredients or foods that were needed were either out of season or in short supply. “In fact,” says Benning, “when one examines the history of mock foods, one usually uncovers strong motivations for their development. Unavailability of ingredients is typical”.

As an example, Benning explains, “Britain’s green sea turtle soup is considered one of the world’s great delicacies, the aristocrat of soups. Here in colonial times, when turtles were readily available at any fish market or wharf, the American housewife began her turtle recipe by buying a live sixty-pounder that she took home in a wheelbarrow or wagon and dumped near the chopping block. She then began the soup by chopping off his head, a task not often performed easily. Retractable heads have a tendency in strange surroundings to stay retracted. If the head could be enticed out of the shell, it took a quick whack with an axe or a 2-by-4 between the jaws to keep the head extended. Remember, 60-pound turtles have jaws that can crush a human arm. Obviously, making turtle soup was neither for the fainthearted nor the weak. And I’m not sure but that women welcomed the news that it was becoming more and more difficult to get sea turtles.

Unfazed,” continues Benning, “the British came up with a mock turtle soup made from the liver, heart, and head of a calf, which, when cooked and cut up, has a gelatinous, meaty texture and a flavor that tastes deceptively like turtle meat…”

Benning goes on to explain that substituting a calf’s head for a sea turtle was no easy matter, either and goes on to explain what it entailed. I will spare you the grisly details. Benning also notes that even today, making real mock turtle soup requires a calf’s head and observes that this is not the easiest item in the world to find nowadays. Therefore, says Benning, because of the unavailability of a crucial ingredient, we now have mock mock turtle soup made, according to Benning, with meaty veal bones instead of the calf’s head. (All of the recipes I grew up with in Cincinnati used ground beef).

Benning notes that, if you search through very old cookbooks, you are likely to find more recipes for mock food dishes. Unavailability of ingredients was always a problem prior to widespread canning and freezing. People ate what was in season—or made up a substitute dish. “For example,” says Benning, “mock coconut pies were made with potatoes and mock cherry pieces were created from raisins and cranberries….”

Benning observes that Mrs. Beeton’s 1859 cookery book provides more than half dozen mock food recipes including one on making mock goose out of one ox heart or two calves hearts. I can go one better—an old copy of the Settlement Cook Book offers ten mock recipes including a mock champagne punch, mock crab on toast, mock duck, a couple of recipes for mock turtle soup (which start out with one calf’s head) and a mock venison, made with lamb.

Benning has quite a bit more to say on the subject of mock food recipes but what intrigues me most is her observation that I bet most of us haven’t thought about: The world is full of mock foods—the strawberry is a mock berry; botanically speaking, it’s really a rose. The banana really isn’t a fruit—it’s a berry and grows on the tallest herb in the world. The sweet potato mocks a potato in appearance but is really a flower, the morning glory. My favorite vegetable, the asparagus? It’s actually a flower and belongs to the lily family. And, imagine this—deadly nightshade and the narcotic mandrake are botanical cousins to the eggplant and the chili pepper. So, you see, the world is full of things that aren’t quite what you think.

Researching for mock food recipes sent my friend Sue Erwin scurrying to the computer to see what she could find on the Internet—you’d be surprised! One article from the Post-Gazette offers, by popular demand, mock crab cakes, made with (who’d have guessed?) grated zucchini! (I can’t wait to try this one out on some crab cake friends!). The Post-Gazette’s column, “In the Kitchen” also offers a recipe for mock deviled eggs (made with egg beaters)) and from the Search Engine, “ASK JEEVES”, Sue found mock cheese souffle, mock hollandaise, mock pecan pie (made with oatmeal), mock tuna salad (made with garbanzo beans), mock salmon loaf (chief ingredient—peanut butter!) and mock chopped liver (made with mushrooms).

There is also mock pea soup (made with string beans and canned asparagus), mock butterfingers (cornflakes and peanut butter), mock oyster casserole (eggplant), mock clotted cream (cream cheese), mock turkey and dressing (made with something called FriChik, which I have never heard of before) and mock dogs (apparently, hot dogs made from baked beans and cheddar cheese).

There were also recipes for making mock orange julius, mock peach daiquiris, mock pink lady cocktails and a mock sangria.

If you are not yet converted to mock foods, there is still something called mock peanut brittle, which is made with peanut butter and cornflakes, and mock chicken legs (cheaters- they’re made with beef roast and pork roast, when everybody knows it should be veal).

In this quest to find as many mock food recipes as possible, I learned an important lesson that is no laughing (or mocking) matter. Some of the least appetizing-sounding mock food recipes can be found in a book called “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” by Marguerite Patten, in association with the Imperial War Museum. “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” is a collection of recipes from the war years (World War II) when the folks in Great Britain suffered a great deal more than we did from the pangs of rationing, making do or doing without. This little book, originally published in 1990, serves as a reminder to us all just how serious rationing was in England, and how difficult it was for mothers to keep food on the table. Included in the book are recipes for mock oyster soup (made with fish “trimmings”—presumably this could mean any part of the fish), mock apricot flan—made with carrots (the author notes the carrots really do taste a little like apricots), something called Poor Knight’s Fritters (actually nothing more than fried bread), mock cream, mock crab (made with reconstituted dried eggs and a little bit of cheese), mock goose (the main ingredients are potatoes and apples), and mock sausages, made with oatmeal. “WE’LL EAT AGAIN” is really what inventing mock food dishes is all about. And while WW2 ended in 1945 – and ended rationing for us, in America, rationing continued in England for years afterwards.

Since I know you are all just itching to rush out to the kitchen to make some mock recipes, the following two recipes may pique your interest. One is the most-requested Mock Crab Cakes which, rumor has it, people won’t believe doesn’t contain crab.

MOCK CRAB CAKES

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini, unpeeled (about 1 medium)
1 onion, finely chopped (we grated it also)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl (we grated the zucchini and onion into a colander so some of the liquid could drain out). The texture can be adjusted—if it’s too dry, add another egg; if too wet, add more bread crumbs (we had to add a couple extra tablespoons of crumbs). Heat some oil in a skillet; form mixture into patties and fry over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Makes 4 big or 6 medium cakes.

The following is a recipe for mock turtle soup. I will spare you the recipes that start out with “take one calf’s head…”

AUNT ANNIE’S MOCK TURTLE SOUP

1 pound ground beef (uncooked)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon A-1 sauce or Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown flour (this is made by browning flour in a dry skillet)
1 can beef gravy (10 ½ oz)
1 bottle Catsup (14 ounces)
3 beef boullion cubes
1 tablespoon pickling spices (tied in a cheesecloth bag or in a tea caddy)
2 ½ quarts water

2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 lemon, sliced thin

Combine all ingredients except the eggs and lemon; simmer 2 hours. Top soup off with sliced hard-boiled eggs and sliced lemon.

Sandra’s Cooknote: Mock Turkey soup, like authentic Cincinnati chili – may be an acquired taste. This could be “You know you’re from Cincinnati….if you like Mock Turtle Soup….You know you are from Cincinnati….if you eat chili with spaghetti.
**

Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook reading!!

–Sandra Lee Smith

MY FAVORITE TOP TEN COOKBOOKS

Some years ago, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times called me on the telephone and asked what my favorite cookbook was. I was totally nonplussed. How do you choose just one? I wondered. I don’t think I gave her a very suitable response and to this day still ask myself how she ever came up with my name and phone number. The ARTICLE she was writing was actually about a vintage cookbook store in Burbank that has since relocated to Pasadena.

Even so, the idea of “a favorite cookbook” has lingered on all these years later. I might have said that Ida Bailey Allen’s Service cookbook was my favorite – it was the cookbook from which I learned how to cook and bake even though, at the age of ten, my recipes were limited to cookies and brownies and muffins. Quite possibly I might have rattled out the names of some of the cookbooks I was reading AT THAT TIME. Like so many of us with favorite novelists – our favorite is the one we are reading RIGHT NOW.

Now, granted – my favorite ten wouldn’t necessarily be YOUR favorite ten. For one thing, my #1 and #2 favorites are “Grandma’s Favorite” which is a collection of Schmidt family favorite recipes, collected over a period of twenty years, and #2 is The Office Cookbook, compiled and published by my employer of twenty seven years. I was greatly involved in the compiling and publishing of both these cookbooks—so I know for a fact that a lot of my favorite recipes are in them. So, that leaves eight more and I will name the cookbook and try to give you a brief explanation why this book is in my top ten.

#3 is “500 TREASURED COUNTRY RECIPES” from Martha Storey and Friends –from Storey Books in Vermont. Why do I like it so much? Whenever I am searching for a recipe (and it’s not in Grandma’s Favorite or The Office cookbook) – “500 Treasure Country Recipes” is probably the next book I will pluck off my shelves. Occasionally, I’ll be searching for something to include in an article on my blog – or I might be searching for something unusual, like Vinegar Candy – because someone wrote and asked me about it. I love the format of “500 Treasured Country Recipes” and I like that it includes many preserving recipes, whether it’s a canning recipe or drying or freezing the harvest. Published in 2000, it’s still very up-to-date eleven years later. It really is a TREASURE.

#4 THE CAKE DOCTOR, by Anne Byrn, published in 1999, was the first (correct me if I’m mistake) of a series; Ms. Byrn recognized a good thing when she found it. Possibly, this is also one of the first of a genre of “doctored cake mixes” and didn’t we all flock to our bookstores to buy a copy?

#5, then, IS THE DINNER DOCTOR also by Anne Byrn, in which she doctors canned, frozen, boxed, bagged and ready-made deli food to make over 230 fast fresh-tasting dishes. Published in 2003 by Workman Publishing Company, this companion cookbook has the same easy-to-read, well formatted style. (*”Chocolate from The Cake Doctor” was published by Workman in 2001 and “Cupcakes from The Cake Doctor” in 2005. It’s not that all four aren’t favorites – but I selected two of the MOST favorites. (Anne Byrn is also the author of “What can I bring Cookbook” published in 2007).

#6 needs to be “ELENA’S FAMOUS MEXICAN AND SPANISH RECIPES” along with “ELENA’S FAVORITE FOODS CALIFORNIA STYLE”. “ELENA’S FAMOUS MEXICAN AND SPANISH RECIPES” was first published in 1944. Written by Elena Zelayeta and edited by a group of San Francisco Home Economists, this is one of those little books—first selling for $1.50—that has remained popular decades later. As a transplanted Californian (from Ohio) I didn’t even know what a taco or an avocado – much less enchiladas or tortillas – were when we arrived in California in 1961. (and NO, there were NO taco bells in Ohio in 1961). Actually, when I first tasted a ripe avocado, I thought it rather bland and tasteless. Then it wasn’t enough to be able to order some of these dishes in a Mexican restaurant, I wanted to know how to make them too.

#7, then is “CINCINNATI RECIPE TREASURY” by Mary Anna Du Sablon. All of my favorite hometown recipes (and more) are in Cincinnati Recipe Treasury. I happened to find this cookbook at a bookstore in Oakland, California, while traveling with my brother Jim one year. He read it from cover to cover during our trip. I then bought half a dozen copies to give to family members for Christmas that year. Cincinnati Recipe Treasury was published In 1984 by Ohio University Press – and is still an all-time favorite to this day. I can sit down and read it (yes, like other people read novels) just to bring back favorite memories of favorite Ohio dishes.

#8 is one of numerous California cookbooks in my collection. I’ve selected two all time favorites and “FARMERS MARKET COOKBOOK” by Neill and Fred Beck, published in 1951 by Henry Holt and Company is, then, my choice for #8. Farmers’ market cookbooks began to enjoy enormous popularity in the past twenty years or so, but the Beck’s Farmer’s Market cookbook is all about the famous farmer’s market in Hollywood, still in operation today. This is what I really consider to be a “regional” cookbook.

#9 is kind of a companion volume, “THE BROWN DERBY COOKBOOK” published in 1949 – with a foreword by Robert Cobb, then president of the Brown Derby Corporation (you may know him better as the creator of the Cobb salad). Included in the cookbook are many of the recipes that made The Brown Derby so famous. It was also “the” place to dine and regular customers were often famous movie stars. I visited the Brown Derby in Los Angeles around 1962 when my mother in law was visiting; she and a girlfriend of mine named Peggy, and I went to the Brown Derby for lunch. We also visited the entrance to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to take a look at all the hand and foot prints immortalized in cement.Someone once said going to Hollywood and not going to see Grauman’s theatre would be like going to China and not seeing the Great Wall. (We didn’t see anybody famous at either place).

Choosing #10 was a tough call but I finally chose “AMERICA COOKS” by the Browns, – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown. Published in 1940 by Halcyon House, “America Cooks” presents favorite recipes from 48 states (Hawaii and Alaska were not yet states in 1940). I’ve read “America Cooks” many times—and it was “the” book that led to my quest to find other cookbooks like it; cookbooks with America in the title, regional cookbooks that were still regional before the USA became so homogenized. Now I have an entire bookcase with cookbooks bearing the name “America” in their titles but I still love “America Cooks” the best. Thanks to my penpal Betsy, who introduced me to The Browns’ cookbooks, I began collecting all of their titles. All of their books are truly the kind of cookbook you can sit down and … read like a novel.

So, what are YOUR favorite cookbooks? And why?
I’d love to hear about them. And be glad I only selected ten, not a hundred, of my favorites. (Actually…the more I browse through my cookbook shelves, the more I find ‘favorite’ cookbooks).

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

–Sandra Lee Smith