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