Category Archives: COOKBOOK REVIEWS

PUTTING IT UP AND PUTTING IT DOWN

While searching (unsuccessfully) through my notebooks (for about two weeks) for a particular cherry tomato recipe that was requested by a friend of my penpal Bev, who lives in Oregon—it belatedly crossed my mind that I might have written something on my blog about the weeks spent making green cherry tomato pickles—and there it was.

I know people who can fruits and vegetables on a mammoth scale so my attempts may sound puny by comparison. Then the other day I found this introduction to Chapter 11 in the Arizona Highway Heritage Cookbook. It was titled PUTTING IT UP AND PUTTING IT DOWN:

“From the beginning, women sought to preserve food at its peak for a later date. They either put it up—in baskets, pots and jars—or put it down—in the ground, in the cellar, or layered with care, mostly in crocks.

Pickling goes back to folk medicine. Cleopatra persuaded Caesar that pickles were a health food. Captain Cook took sauerkraut to sea to prevent scurvy…”

Writes the author, Louise DeWald, “Coming from Pennsylvania seven-sweet and seven-sour territory, I grew up with canning and pickling and jamming. Some of our family recipes went back before Civil War days. What a delight to discover some of those in the old handwritten receipt books of many families who came West.

Prickly Pear Preserves and Pyracantha* Berry Jelly were not among those. Arizona’s sweets and sours are distinctively its own, adding a tiny hot yellow pepper here and a cactus pad there.

Preservation and cooling prior to the ice box was ingenious. Dorothy Hubbell, daughter in law of Indian Trader Lorenzo Hubbell, described “the non-powered cooler made for storage of milk, butter, and other supplies. It was a cabinet of three large rimmed tin shelves covered with strips of heavy material which were wet down, then kept damp. Meat was in a cool dry place, usually well salted…”

ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK, with text written by Louise DeWald, color photography by Richard Embry and Photographic Food Stylist Pam Rhodes is a beautiful hard-cover cookbook with hidden spiral binding, published in 1988 by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The text and inviting photographs reached out to me; I haven’t yet attempted Prickly Pear Jelly, but I have made Watermelon Pickles and Pickled First Crop Figs. When Bob and I lived in Arleta, we had 3 fig trees; you couldn’t keep up with the crop of figs although birds did their part to eat the figs on the top branches.

What I love most about ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK is the wealth of historic recipes accompanied by the history of Arizona. (Ever since I bought three books of fiction by Nancy E. Turner, with history of Arizona woven into the storyline, I have wanted to know more about Arizona.

And to be honest, I had to look up Pyracantha which is a thorny evergreen shrub. Pyracantha, or firethorn as it is also known, is a pretty shrub with attractive flowers and magnificent red, yellow or orange berries in autumn. More Google research revealed that:

“Pyracantha berries are not poisonous as many people think although they taste very bitter. They are edible when cooked and can be made into jelly. Pyracantha jelly is quite tasty, and is similar to apple jelly in both appearance and flavor with a little tang. As Pyracantha are quite common and do produce masses of berries it is quite easy to gather enough berries to make yourself a few jars of jelly, be sure to wear gloves to protect hands from thorns.

We recommend using red Pyracantha berries, off varieties such as ‘Red Column‘, pick berries when they are bright red (in late autumn) if the birds haven’t got there before you.

Pyracantha Jelly/Jam Recipe

There are a few recipes for making Pyracantha jelly but we have tried a few, and this one seems to be the best and works well.

What you need:

3½ lb Pyracantha berries
2½ pts water
4 fl oz lemon juice (Pro Rata)
3½ lb sugar (Pro rata)
Liquid pectin
Pyracantha ‘Red Edge’

First pick your berries and measure out 3½ lb of Pyracantha berries and then wash them in water. Get a large pan and fill with water and bring to the boil. Now add the Pyracantha berries and bring to the boil and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.

Now remove the pulp and strain (cooked berries) through a muslin cloth.

Next, remove the berry juice and measure how much you have. Add the juice back into the pan and for every 1½ pints of juice you have, add 4oz of lemon juice and 3½ lb sugar. Now bring back to the boil again and when boiling add one full bottle of liquid pectin and keep stirring, keep boiling for around one minute and keep stirring. A thin layer of foam will start to form on top of the contents in the pan.

Any excess berry juice can be frozen and used to make jelly later if preferred.”

I was so excited learning about pyracantha berries and want to ask my son Kelly to go with me to the nursery nearby to see if the pyracantha shrub grows here in the Antelope Valley, considering that our climate is similar to the desert regions of Arizona. I remember learning about fruits and berries unfamiliar to me when we lived in Florida. My next-door-neighbor’s best friend had a Mango tree and brought me huge amounts of mangoes. If not quite ripe, they could be put on a low window sill in our Florida room. I learned a lot about Mangoes but I think mango jam and mango chutney were two of my favorite recipes. Sorry, I digressed!!

Canning fruits and vegetables has been a hobby of mine for well over 20 years. We had a lot of fruit trees and a Concord grape arbor in Arleta; my family is helping me plant fruit trees here in Quartz Hill—we’ve planted apple, apricot, cherry, pomegranate, and pear trees so far and they have begun to produce fruit My son and daughter in law have promised me a pecan tree for the back yard. I’d like to try planting Concord grape vines too; the grape vines I have right now are all sweet grapes. A friend has been bringing Asian pears to me to make jam or relish and another girlfriend I met at bowling has been giving me figs from her back yard—I’d like to plant a fig tree or two here as well.

All of which, I hope, will provide more jams and jellies, chutneys and juices to put up or put down. No, we don’t have cellars here in the high desert—but I HAVE made batches of sauerkraut when heads of cabbage is inexpensive in March and as long as it stays cool in the garage, the kraut will ferment for 6 weeks so that I can put it up in quart jars. My son has had bumper crops of different kinds of squash—we couldn’t give enough of it away last year but I noticed that, as long as the weather remains fairly cool, the squash will keep in the garage or a pantry.

And if you are interested in putting up (canning) green cherry tomatoes, here is that recipe:

What You Need:

(For 12 quarts of green cherry tomato pickles)
14 pounds of green cherry tomatoes
12 cups of white vinegar
12 cups of water
12 tbsp. of kosher salt
dill seeds
whole black peppercorns

red pepper flakes or whole small chili peppers—dried or fresh

Jars — either quart-sized jars or 6 pint-sized jars, as well as lids and rings, a hot water canner (if you’re planning on storing your pickles long term)
Jar lifter

Prepping Your Tomatoes

(Note: If you’re planning to process your pickles in a hot water canner, you should fill the canner with water, add your jars, and turn the water on to sterilize and warm your jars. Just leave the jars in the water until you’re ready to use them. Place the lids and rings in another pan with simmering – not boiling- water until you’re ready to use them.)

Gather and wash 14 pounds of green tomatoes. I used green cherry tomatoes because they seemed to stay firmer after processing, but any green tomato will work. You can cut your tomatoes in half if they’re larger or cut them into quarters. (I left mine whole and used different sizes – large and small. The very small ones filled empty spaces in the jars.)

Now, make your brine. Add the vinegar, water, and salt to a pan, and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, it’s time to start filling your sterilized jars.

Remove the jars from the boiling water canner with your jar tongs. Set them on a towel on your counter (so they don’t crack when they come into contact with the cool surface) and add the following to each jar:

• 1 tsp. dill seeds
• 1 tsp. black peppercorns
• 1/4 tsp (or more if you want them spicier) of red pepper flakes–or small whole red chili peppers (fresh or dried)

Once your spices are in, start packing your tomatoes into the jars. Really pack them in. Once they’re packed, add brine to fill the spaces between tomatoes. Use a chopstick or knife to go around the inside of the jar and remove any air bubbles, then fill with more brine if you need to. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace, then wipe the rims of your jars to clean up any brine, add your lids and tighten your rings.

Put your jars in your hot water canner, and cover with a lid. Once the water comes up to a boil, start your timer — you’ll be processing your pickles for fifteen minutes.
Once time is up, remove your jars and place them on a towel on a kitchen counter. They’ll have to sit there for several hours to cool. When they are cool, you can label the pickles and put them in a dark place to “age” – 6 weeks should be about right. This is the length of time I age my hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles.

Making Refrigerator Pickled Green Tomatoes–You can also forget about the boiling water processing if you just want to make a few jars of pickles to be eaten within the next month or so. Prep your tomatoes, add your spices, tomatoes, and boiling brine to the jars, and place in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in about a week.
What to Do with Pickled Green cherry tomatoes? You can snack on them or slice or dice the pickles to go on top of hamburgers or hot dogs. They can be diced and added to tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches—or cut up to go into salads. The sky’s the limit.

ARIZONA HIGHWAYS HERITAGE COOKBOOK is available on Amazon.com new, at $4.99 and pre-owned starting at one cent. Remember that postage and handling on pre-owned books is $3.99 at Amazon.com. My copy was pre-owned and is in very good condition.

—Sandra Lee Smith

MORE COOKBOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

It never fails to amaze me how many cookbooks are “out there” that I didn’t know anything about. Not only that, but some of my cooking magazines publish articles such as “Top 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS” and “TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS”—or another one “OLDIES BUT GOODIES” and when I go to put these lists in some kind of date order, I constantly come up short.

I think the article OLDIES BUT GOODIES came from ALLRECIPES—their list, thankfully, is short and the authors suggest these would make good bridal shower or graduation gifts but point out that, if you buy a current JOY OF COOKING cookbook for a bridal shower, it won’t be the same as the original JOY (which I have written about on my blog—that being said, a few years ago, Joy was published in a facsimile edition. You can have a new copy of an old favorite.

The selection of OLDIES BUT GOODIES published by Cooking Light are:

THE SILVER PALATE by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Workman publishers, $23.

THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD NOTES, LESSONS AND RECIPES FROM A DELICIOUS REVOLUTION, by Alice Waters, Clarkson Potter, $35

ALL ABOUT BRAISING: THE ART OF UNCOMPLICATED COOKING, by Molly Stevens, W.W. Norton publisher, $35

THE SPLENDID TABLE’S HOW TO EAT SUPPER: RECIPES STORIES, AND OPINIONS FROM PUBLIC RADIO’S AWARD WINNING FOOD SHOW, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35, and

BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers, $40.

Well, this list makes me feel like a poor country cousin. Of the five, I am only familiar with THE SILVER PALATE—and I was under the impression that the authors had a falling out—but when I Googled the title, I discovered that Sheila Lukins passed away in 2009, so that may explain my misconception. While on Google, I discovered that THE SILVER PALATE Cookbook celebrated its 25th anniversary, so it’s been around a while. I am fairly certain that I have a copy of THE SILVER PALATE but I have no idea which edition I have—or where to find it.

MY BAD! The bulk of my cookbooks are in categories; if I don’t know which category to put it with, I am pretty much at a loss.

I do have a separate collection of favorite cookbook authors—but if its not one of my favorite cookbook authors it could be anywhere.

I know about The Splendid Table, having listened to the Public Radio’s program but I confess, I’m not an avid listener. That’s all I can say about the list in Allrecipe’s OLDIES BUT GOODIES—but the article tells us that these have stood the test of time and that “while the recipes may not always take the fastest route from raw to cooked, they certainly take the reader from novice to confident home cook in a matter of weeks”

and FYI – many roads lead to Rome; if you don’t want to spend $35 or $40 for one of these cookbooks, unless it’s a wedding or bridal shower present – you know I am an avid Amazon.com follower. They list over 300 copies, from one cent for pre-owned paperback to 44 cents for hardcover They are certain to have a copy that appeals to you and meets your spending requirements.
***
If you start to investigate the magazine COOKING LIGHT’s list of the TOP 100 COOKBOOKS—it’s easy to get lost in lists. They write:
“As we contemplate turning 25, we decided to pick our favorite 100 cookbooks, which we’ll unveil over the next year across 15 categories. We looked at best-seller and awards lists, and talked to editors, authors, and experts. For consideration, books had to be published in the United States since 1987 and either be in print or easily available online. Winners emerged after passionate debate about voice, originality, beauty, importance, and a clear mission or vision. Yes, we tested the recipes. Finally, we asked: To whom would you give this book? (Probably another Cooking Light reader: Our research shows you are omnivorous cookbook consumers.)

There is Cooking Light’s TOP 100 COOKBOOKS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS –
PART unknown
PART 2 unknown
PART 3 HEALTHY COOKBOOKS
PART 4 ASIAN COOKBOKS
PART 5 FRENCH COOKBOOKS

The COOKING LIGHT lists overwhelmed me, I confess. The publishers came up with 15 categories which had to meet the Cooking Light stringent requirements. MY BAD again—I don’t think I was a Cooking Light subscriber throughout all of their categories.

It has taken me almost 800 words to make a point. And not only am I unfamiliar with virtually all of the cookbooks featured in COOKING LIGHT, I don’t plan to get on Amazon.com and start buying them. For, as many of you know, the bulk of my cookbooks are club-and-church titles for that was my specialty in 1965 when I began collecting cookbooks. Back in the day, those were harder to find than they are now—and once the Junior League cookbooks became popular, they became more readily available.

Here, then, are my next five titles for you to think about—and #1 is a Junior League cookbook. Its title is MOUNTAIN MEASURES by the Junior League of Charleston, West Virginia. MOUNTAIN MEASURES was first printed in 1974. By its tenth printing in 1994, over 150,000 copies of MOUNTAIN MEASURES had been printed. Its theme was pioneer women, her recipes, arts and crafts.

I was initially drawn to MOUNTAIN MEASURES because my mother-in-law had been born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. I assume her husband, who died of lung cancer in 1957, had also been born there. Her husband, whose name was Paul Sanford or Sanford Paul Smith, went to Cincinnati to make a better living. My mother in law, whose name was Bertha, liked to tell the story of her traveling to Cincinnati by train, and she was so weak when they got there, that she had to be carried, in a quilt, off the train. Aside from poor health, she gave birth to three children – two sons and one daughter. Her youngest son, James, was my husband for 26 years. In his mother’s eyes, he could do no wrong. And despite her poor health, she lived to be ninety-something years old.

I was often tried, beyond tolerance, to put up with the family’s (particularly his mother’s) belief that Jim was too frail to be a proper husband much less hold down a full time job—as I write this, he is going on 78 years old and still going strong. He remarried about ten years ago.

Despite our being at cross purposes most of the time, I learned how to make biscuits and gravy from my mother in law, the proper way to make cornbread and beans (always pinto beans) and other “down home” favorites.

From MOUNTAIN MEASURES I found a lot of later day recipes, such as Crystallized Ginger Cream Cheese Dip, Parmesan-on-Rye Canapes, one of my favorite recipes – Pickled Shrimp which is so easy to make up in advance, and several recipes for corn bread – Double Corn Corn Bread and Grandmother Kiser’s Corn Bread. There are also recipes for Corn Pone, Hush Puppies and Johnny Cake, Dr. Maggie’s Old Fashioned Spoon Bread and Cornbread Dressing. There is an 1890 recipe for smoked turkey and a recipe for Leather Britches (string beans that had been dried) and many more recipes sure to become your family favorites.

So MOUNTAIN MEASURES is one of my favorites and ranks #1 on this list. Pre-owned copies are available for just under $3.00 each on Amazon.com. Not sure if this is one you need to own, you might check Amazon.com for a copy published by Quail Ridge Press. One of the features of Quail Ridge Press is that they provide an index of the cookbooks featured in each of their cookbooks, along with a photograph of each of the featured cookbooks, most with ordering information. **
The next one I like and is #2 has the unusual title of A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, by Chris Snyder. The author says “the name of this cookbook is a little odd so I figured it deserved an explanation. I love to cook. Even more than that, I love to cook for other people. Elizabeth used to tell her boyfriends, “My mom has a need to feed”” Strangely enough, having the need to feed others is actually a symptom of an eating disorder. Go figure…” (and everyone who knows me well knows I have a need to feed, too.

I think it’s related to a need to keep a pantry (and refrigerator and freezer) packed. My daughter in law, Keara, and I had a discussion about this—which she shares with me. It has to do with growing up in a home where there was never enough to eat. We had meals—but there was seldom enough for seconds or leftovers. In my mother’s kitchen, when I was growing up, you also had to ask the others if they wanted a bit of leftover peas or corn or whatever. If someone else wanted some, it had to be shared. My best example of what fed seven people (five children and two adults – this was before Susie & Scott were born) – my mother would feed everyone with one can of salmon that was 14 or 15 ounces, out of which she made salmon patties that may have been mostly crushed crackers than fish. Meatloaf was the same – a pound of meat had about a loaf of bread incorporated into the mix. We didn’t know what real meat tasted like until we became adults and moved out of the house.
But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, Chris uses one of my favorite phrases—she continues, “Anyway, I digress. When I begin to cook, “ she writes, “I make sure the kitchen is very clean, neat and tidy before I begin and my goal is to finish one task, clean up and then begin another. However, its kind of like binge drinking. Once I get started, it’s like a whirlwind, or…a twister has been released in the kitchen. It begins with a slow building storm and soon I’m in such a flurry that I can barely have anyone in the same room with me as I dash from one location to the next, spoons dripping ingredients flying and pots boiling over. It’s almost like a trance I slip into. I am completely unaware of my surroundings. I’m just creating a path of destruction wherever I turn…” (this is where Chris lost me—because when I cook, I am cleaning up after myself as I go along.)
She goes on to say the food does turn out great, but when she puts the food into the refrigerator and turns to examine the kitchen, it’s an enormous mess.

This is not how I cook and when I put a meal for the family on the table, all there is to clean up are the plates and serving bowls, pots and pans. I prefer to clean up the kitchen by myself because I am very picky about the process – silverware and glasses first, then plates, then pots and pans. I don’t have a dishwasher and it’s unlikely I will ever own one; my kitchen counter is the same counter put in with the house when it was built in 1955. I need a couple more inches to put in a dishwasher(per my son who works on appliances and knows these things).

For that matter, I don’t think my 1955 kitchen plumbing would tolerate a dishwasher. (When I had a repairman here to fix the sink, he observed that it was all “the original” from 1955. Not a good sign.

But getting back to A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN, granted that Chris and I have nothing in common when it comes to keeping our kitchens clean; that being said, I think we are kindred spirits when it comes to recipes. I was pleased to find a recipe for pomegranate martini—a very simple recipe, at that, and Hot Dip For an Army can be made in your largest crockpot. The author notes that leftovers—if you have any—can be frozen and reheated later. I like the sound of BLT Dip too. Corny Bean Salsa sounds like a winner too. Her recipe for Honey Roasted Pretzels sounds like something I will make up—it calls for 9 cups of mini pretzels and I have 3 bags of them on hand from a previous addiction to Hidden Valley Ranch pretzels, a recipe from my friend Sylvia. These and many other mostly easy to fix recipes will keep you busy—either reading or cooking. I was unable to find A TWISTER IN THE KITCHEN on either Amazon.com or Alibris.com—so if you happen to find a copy at a book sale or where ever, snap it up. ***

I have referred to the BEST OF THE BEST cookbook series from time to time –The concept was an unusual one and highly successful. Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley set out to write a cookbook about all fifty states—for instance, I am looking at BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO and it is #3 on my favorite five list.

The two women traveled to all fifty of the states (one at a time, presumably) and once they were in a State – such as Ohio – they set out to collect as many church and club cookbooks from that state as they could find—and then would choose what they considered the finest from a collection of those cookbooks. The recipes would be collated into a cookbook, along with an index and a catalog of contributing cookbooks—and, when possible, ordering information for those cookbooks. When the Best of the Best first began publishing their cookbooks, my friend Mandy and I were not satisfied just to buy the Best of the Best cookbook—we began ordering many of the church and club cookbooks that became a part of the BOTB cookbook. The problem with collecting cookbooks is that the collector is never satisfied with just the cookbooks – we are addicted to cookbook lists or cookbook catalogs (I can spend hours reading cookbook catalogs such as the ones Edward R. Hamilton publishes.

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and consequently, have searched for Ohio/Cincinnati cookbooks whenever I am visiting family and friends—one year when I took the children to Cincinnati to spend the summer at my parents’ home, I bought so many cookbooks that we packed them into boxes. We took the Greyhound Bus back to California because there was no restriction on the weight of your baggage. A redcap assisting my husband at the train station in downtown Los Angeles inquired “what you got in here, lady? Fort Knox?” to which I replied “No, just cookbooks….lots of cookbooks.” Fortunately, at the time we had a station wagon and all the boxes fit into the back of the car. Those summer trips to Cincinnati with my sons—and trips downtown to find used book stores with my kid brother who was a teenager at the time—are some of my favorite memories. For, when it comes to collecting books – whether they are cookbooks or biographies, fiction novels or history—part of the joy is in the search and finding something special.

You can find BEST OF THE BEST FROM OHIO on Amazon.com new for $7.33 or pre-owned starting at 09 cents (bearing in mind, shipping will cost you $3.99 for a pre-owned book). Still, a little over $4.00 for a cookbook like this one is a good deal. I think I have all of the BEST OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS. I know that Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley have gone on to compile second editions of some of their cookbooks—for instance, there are two of Texas and two of Oklahoma. There may be others by now that I am not aware of. The BEST OF THE BEST series are amongst my favorite cookbooks. **

That being said, BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON is also a favorite and is #4 on this favorite five list.

I acquired an Oregon penpal back in 1974; we are still going strong forty years later. They have visited me (Bev and her husband LeRoy) more often than I have visited them. In 1978 we had a camper and my husband and children—and I—visited their farm in Oregon for the first time.

I didn’t make it back to Oregon until 2007, when we spent one day visiting lighthouses, and again in 2012. I had planned to visit them this year, 2014, and even had my plane tickets purchased—when an unexpected illness knocked me for a loop. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and recuperating for the next three months.

Blackberries grow in wild abundance in Oregon. My friends have blackberries growing wild across the back of their property. Bev would bring me bags of frozen puree of blackberries or whole frozen blackberries. Blackberries have become my favorite fruit, whether for making jam or putting into recipes.

BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON offers recipes for blackberry apple pie, blackberry butter, blackberry dumplings, blackberry roll and blackberry apple crunch—but if you aren’t as crazy about blackberries as I am, you may want to try a recipe for rosemary-blue cheese potatoes, zucchini patties or zucchini fritters, asparagus chicken or cranberry chicken.

If you travel to Oregon (and not just drive through it on I-5, you will find, as noted in the Preface, “Home in the mountains, home in the plains..…stretching majestically across the state’s north/south expanse, the Cascade Mountains, create two separate regions, offering a dramatic topographical diversity to the state’s landscape…”

When I was there in 2007, we drove over the Cascades –and found it snowing; we drove out of the snow to nice sunny weather on the other side. The authors of BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON also note that east of the Cascades are highly productive farmlands overflowing with potatoes, carrots, etc. My friend Bev makes good use of all the fruit and vegetables they produce; she cans everything that isn’t nailed down.

During my 2012 visit she was making homemade V8 juice upon my arrival —so we went out and bought me a case of quart jars so we could make a batch of V8 juice for ME—and they brought it with them when they visited me in January. But tomatoes aren’t the only thing she cans—and that weekend, her family came to celebrate our joint birthdays and make apple cider. (I made a batch of Cincinnati Chili to feed her family on that occasion).

There’s something for everyone in BEST OF THE BEST FROM OREGON. It’s an excellent go-to cookbook for something new and tasty for you to try.

My fifth (and #5 on this list of favorite cookbooks) is a Gooseberry Patch cookbook. If you aren’t familiar with the series of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, you are really missing out. I think I counted over 60 titles yesterday; a lot of them are Christmas topics but there are many other titles as well.

I am referring today to their cookbook DINNERS ON A DIME—it’s one of my favorites because of all the thrifty inspired recipes. I submitted a recipe to Dinners on a Dime and it was accepted for publication. If you submit a recipe and they accept it – you receive a free copy when the books are published.

The recipe I submitted was my Aunt Annie’s Chicken Paprika. I even found one for Roosevelt Dinner that was the contributor’s mother in law’s famous recipe. She had found Roosevelt Dinner in a newspaper many years ago. What caught my attention is that this contributor lives in Ravenna, Ohio, where my brother Bill also lives.

But DINNERS ON A DIME offers a great deal more than just my aunt’s chicken paprika and/or someone named Amy’s Roosevelt Dinner. The first chapter is devoted to Shoestring Suppers but there are Hearty & Thrifty Soups, Cent-sational Sides. Slow-Cooker Savings, Penny-Pinch Pantry Staples and a lot more. I think DINNERS ON A DIME is about the 6th Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I received free—you can submit some of your favorite recipes to http://www.gooseberrypatch.com – then wait and see if you get a letter congratulating you for your entry being chosen.

Gooseberry Patch is also on Facebook, if you are interested. I love the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks so much that I often give them for Christmas or birthday presents. I misspoke on my count of the spiral bound Gooseberry Patch cookbooks – I also have about a dozen oversized books, mostly dedicated to the holidays. You can order their books directly from their website – for example, DINNERS ON A DIME is listed on Amazon.com for $11.53, new, or $4.26 also new, or starting at 73 cents from a private vendor—but prepare yourself, when you see all the other titles published by Gooseberry Patch.

That concludes five of MY favorite cookbook titles you may not know about!

–Sandy

THE FIRST FIVE

THE FIRST FIVE

The following is a list of the cookbooks being featured in this blog post:
TASTEFULLY YOURS, BY THE MISSIONARIES OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA
HOME TOWN RECIPES by Boy Scouts of Lancaster, Ontario, Canada (around) 1985
GRANDMA LOVEY’S COOKBOOK, 1989
THE SIAS FAMILY HERITAGE COOKBOOK, 2003 and
LUNDSTROM COOK & LOOK BOOK compiled by Connie Lundstrom, 1992
**
Recently, I received three boxes of cookbooks from my penpal, Betsy, who lives in Michigan. She buys and reads the cookbooks when she finds them—and then, not having a lot of storage space, she sends them to me. I may not have enough space for any more cookie jars or recipe boxes, but I haven’t quite run out of space for cookbooks. But for now, the new stacks of cookbooks – all club and church types—are waiting for attention.

Since I wrote recently about my collection of recipes in 3-ring binders (which, I confess, I continue to collect as I go through women’s magazines and cut out pages using an Exacto knife) – I thought I could start with a few club-and-church type cookbooks, all spiral bound, that are family cookbooks—that is, some cookbooks compiled by individual families.

I know how much work (never mind cost!) goes into one of these cookbooks because in 2004 my family cookbook finally got off the ground and published before my sister, Barbara, passed away. I took some of the published Schmidt family cookbooks with me to Tennessee for Barbara (who the family called Becky) to give out to her own children and grandchildren.

Actually, the Schmidt family cookbook – which was titled Grandma’s Favorite—was twenty years in the making. It was at my father’s funeral in 1984 that we first discussed compiling a family cookbook and then it took the next twenty years to get the family members to send me their recipes.

It went to a publisher that specializes in this type of cookbook with my sister Becky and I footing the bill. We figured we could sell enough of the books at $10.00 each to defray the cost.
In 2002, my work office had decided to publish a cookbook as a company fund raiser. I did a lot of the work on that cookbook but didn’t have to concern myself with the cost. THAT cookbook, believe it or not, was also twenty years in the making. The Office employees began collecting recipes in 1985 or 86…eventually we had over 400 recipes (and the more recipes you have, the more it costs to publish it)—so another employee and I typed up all of the recipes, printed it at work and put the collection into a large 3-ring binder.

When the Office committee decided to publish The Office Cookbook, they reduced the number of recipes by about 200. The end result was a lovely cookbook. When a co-worker of mine learned about the original 400, he asked if he could copy it. I told him of course—as a way of saying thank you, this coworker, whose name was Garrett, made a beautiful copy of the original 400 recipes for me. What I have loved all along about the original 400 Office Cookbook is the many recipes contributed by employees who retired or passed away. It’s still one of my all-time favorites. This just gives you a bit of an idea what you can do with family recipes—but above everything else, you do need financial support. Becky and I, between us, came up with enough money to get our family cookbook published.

Here’s the thing about publishing your own cookbook—whether for a church or club or personal family; when it’s a family project, the publishing company wants the entire amount of money up front. When you are with a church or club, you have something like 90 days to pay it off. If you can incorporate ads into your cookbook by means of visiting various businesses in your area—that money can help you get your cookbook publisher paid off early in the game.

All of this being said, as a means of introduction, I want to share with you five other family or small church cookbooks. I should also mention that a lot of individual women have published their own collections of recipes. This is ideal course for someone who has a large collection of personal recipes and their friends and family are constantly urging them to get their collection published.

(Needless to say, these urgers are totally unaware of the cost of publishing your own recipes.) Oops, I lied—I just found two more personal family cookbooks. And I want to reaffirm that all of these came with the three boxes of cookbooks my friend Betsy sent to me recently. I have NO idea how many others like these are amongst the cookbooks on my shelves and in the garage library.
In any case, the first one I want to mention is HOME TOWN RECIPES, subtitled “Be Prepared” that was compiled by the 1st Lancaster Boy Scouts of Lancaster, Ontario, Canada.

This is a slim spiral bound cookbook that boasts of many sponsors—from a Lancaster Flower Shop to Feed & Farm Supply, some banks and insurance companies. All you need from a sponsor, when you want to sell them some space in your cookbook, is their business cards. Selling space for ads is a great way to defray the cost of getting your cookbook published. HOME TOWN RECIPES is undated but it appears that one of the buyers, named Eve, gave a copy gave a copy to someone else and then dated it January 24, 1985. I’ve done something like this myself, many times, when I participated in a cookbook project and then bought extra copies to give as gifts.

I am reminded of the first church cookbook I ever owned – it was a Methodist church in Cincinnati in 1961—and my father bought about five copies to give as gifts to my mother, sister, me – and whoever else. Those books were only a dollar each.

Not surprisingly, the Lancaster, Ontario, boy scouts HOME TOWN RECIPES from the 1st Lancaster Boy Scouts of Lancaster, Ontario, Canada isn’t listed on Amazon.com—but if you like the title and it has whet your appetite, you can find a slew of “Home Town cookbooks” to be found in many different cities – one I am interested in was Home Town Recipes by Friends of the Volunteer Center Auburn CA (Jan 1, 1969) – I have friends who live in Auburn, California. Home Town Recipes has a fair amount of tried-and-true recipes in it – I know because they are some of MY tried-and-true recipes—recipes such as Beef in Red Wine (called Beef Burgundy in my cookbook)—are in Home Town Recipes. There are a lot of ads in the cookbook as well.

Next is a spiral bound cookbook titled TASTEFULLY YOURS which was compiled and edited by Janice Conklin Hesselink. Recipes were submitted by the Missionaries of the Reformed Church in America, sponsored by Reformed Church women in 1977. What is especially fascinating about TASTEFULLY YOURS is its collection of recipes from other countries—starting with American Indian, Canada, Mexico, Ethiopia, Arabia, India, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and wrapping it up with recipes from the Philippines. Listed as a separate category are Southern recipes. A lot of work went into this cookbook. Tastefully Yours is listed in Amazon.com, listed at $7.16 for a new copy or $3.17 for a pre-owned copy..

A Privately compiled and printed is an 1989 endeavor called GRANDMA LOVEY’S COOKBOOK. It has 3 rings holding the whole thing together, and subtitled “A collection of recipes gathered over the past 73 years. Inside is a dedication for Mother’s Day, May 14, 1989, and offered as a tribute by “Ma Ma’s” children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and one great-great granddaughter.

Also inside is a list of all the family members, listing all the names and dates of birth. Grandma Lovey dictates a lengthy introduction, starting with her birth in Germany and leading up to her brother Ehler and her, Greta, coming to America. Greta’s story about her life in Germany is really interesting –I am especially interested in her story about Christmas; the Christmas tree not being put up until Christmas Eve and when the children came home from church, there it would be in the living room. She also notes there were not many gifts, but mostly things they could use, like knitted stockings or mittens. (this is almost exactly how Christmas arrived in my mother’s home—although we didn’t go to church Christmas Eve—we went to my Grandma Schmidt’s house. I remember taking my two younger brothers downtown to shop on Christmas Eve day and then taking the bus back to Fairmount to our grandmother’s. My father would be sent to pick us up in his car when all was ready, and sometimes my godmother, Barbara, would be with him).

Getting back to Grandma Lovey’s trip to America, she relates that it took 10 days and 9 hours (which I think is a misprint), The first place she saw was Ellis Island and she didn’t speak any English, so she was fearful she wouldn’t be allowed “in”—she recalls if anything was found wrong with you, you would be sent back to your home country. (I understand that a lot of the foreigners who crossed the ocean and arrived at Ellis Island didn’t speak English. It boggles my mind when you think how they all managed to find their destinations).

Then Greta took a train trip to South Dakota to live with an uncle for a few months. In 1927 Greta met her husband, Roland Lovelace, who worked in a shoe shop. Six months later, they were married and not too long after that, the newlyweds moved to Fargo, North Dakota. There is a great deal more to Grandma Lovey’s memoirs—I could easily be swayed to write pages about her memories but this is a cookbook review!! What a wonderful tribute this was for the family matriarch—I can’t imagine how or why someone gave away or sold this copy.

Recipes include German Potato Salad, Home Made Noodles, Sauerkraut and Pork Roast, Angel Food Cake (about 1 ½ cups of egg whites—about 10 eggs) and my favorite, Home Made Sauerkraut—and more. Grandma Lovey’s Cookbook will have to be kept on the same shelf as my copy of Grandma’s Favorite—so many of the recipes are similar to those of MY grandmother. Well done, Lovey family. **

Another family cookbook was that of the Sias Family; their West Virginia Heritage Cookbook compiled by family member Judy Blevins, was in honor of Thomas and Maggie Garlin Sias. Ancestor Thomas was born in 1873 and died in 1962; Maggie was born in 1883 and passed away in 1932. They had seven sons and four daughters. Included in the cookbook, along with recipes, are family photographs of various family members, which is a lovely touch for everyone.

Look for traditional southern family favorites such as Blackberry Pie and Blackberry Cobbler, Pecan Pie and Old Fashioned Bread Pudding , Blackberry Cake (that I want to try) as well as some unusual recipes, such as Vanilla Cherry Fudge, Cupcakes Filled with Cream, or perhaps Sweet Potato CAKE—we see a lot of sweet potato pies but I have never before found one for Sweet Potato Cake—another recipe I look forward to trying.

Sias Family Heritage Cookbook was published in 2003, printed by Morris Press Cookbooks who did my family cookbook as well as The Office Cookbook that I was involved with compiling. I didn’t find it listed on Amazon.com but you may find a copy if you start searching for one. Judy Blevins, the family member who got the cookbook compiled, is listed at PO Box 502 in Huntington, West Virginia 25710 – in case anyone is interested.
*
Another cookbook compiled and had published is COOK & LOOK BOOK by Connie Lundstrom. She mentions that this cookbook was her 7th published book so I began to check into her history on Amazon.com. I found 9 published titles; remember not all of her published works are cookbooks.

I learned that Connie is the author of OUR FAVORITE RECIPES, 1982
MY HOME, THE HIGHWAY, published in 1986,
CONNIE’S CELEBRITY COOKBOOK, 1986,
CONNIE’S HOLIDAY COOKBOOK published in 1988 and
COOK & LOOK BOOK published in 1992

She is the author of FROM FEAR TO FAITH, 1994, as well as:

OUR FAVORITE RECIPES co-authored by husband Lowell and Connie.
CONNIE’S COUNTRY COOKIN’ 1995
LUNDSTROM PARTNERS & FRIENDS, 1999 and
CONNIE’S PRISON DIARY, LUNDSTROM MIDWEST PRISON TOUR, 1977
As I searched for more titles from Amazon.com, this is what I learned about Connie:
“ Connie Lundstrom, Christian singer, author, conference host and speaker, wife of Pastor/Evangelist, Lowell Lundstrom, went to be with the Lord, December 13, 2011.
She and Lowell attended four years of Bible college together at what is now Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota. Both were good students; Connie was elected valedictorian and Lowell salutatorian of their class.

The couple began their evangelistic music ministry, traveling in a little Nash Rambler station-wagon to churches in the Midwest. Since then, the ministry has grown tremendously. Connie, Lowell and eight team members traveled in two buses over 300 nights of the year throughout the United States and Canada holding city-wide interdenominational outreaches, seminars and rallies for over two decades.

In the fall of 1996, Lowell and Connie launched Celebration Church in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville, Minnesota. They continue their soul winning outreaches and marriage seminars across the United States and Canada as well as being pastors at Celebration Church.

Connie is the mother of four children, Londa, Lisa, Lowell Jr. and Lance and grandmother of five, Chase, Connor, Reagan, Gracen, and Zeke. All of the children traveled with the Lundstrom Ministry team, participating in crusades and rallies while they were growing up. Connie has written about the many challenges and blessings of this itinerant lifestyle in her book, “My Home The Highway.”

Her most recent outreach project, one she was very enthused about starting, was the Good News Radio Show, a 15 minute weekly Internet podcast which is broadcast from LundstromRadio.com. Lowell and Connie began producing these shows in April of 2011”.

The cookbook I am presenting now is the Lundstrom Cook & Look Book; Connie writes on the cover, “A collection of photographs of our life on the road and recipes from special friends we’ve made along the way.

Within the pages of COOK & LOOK, I have found many recipes spanning decades of my own collection—for instance, Easy Pralines was a favorite candy recipe of mine—it has a box of butterscotch pudding and pie mix in the recipe. I’m not sure why I stopped making it but I think it was because I graduated on to some other praline candy recipes, but there is a recipe for Rye Bread that I discovered and-as luck has it—I have a package of rye flour that I’ve been meaning to make into rye bread. I may have to send some of it to my brother to Keep it from becoming wild bird feed.

Connie was a stunning beautiful woman, as evidence by photographs featured in the COOK & LOOK COOKBOOK, which, she writes, is a collection of photographs of their life on the road, and recipes from special friends they made along the way. I think this one is going on a baker’s rack, where I keep the cookbooks I use most often. And there are many recipes in this cookbook—lots of muffin recipes, for example, including my favorite muffin recipe that is made with bran cereal. There is also a Date Nut Brand Muffin recipe (2 cups all bran cereal) that I bought a container of pitted dates to try Connie’s recipe. Here is a rhymed recipe you may enjoy, if you remember all the rhymed recipes that I posted a couple years ago;

“She guessed at the pepper, the soup was too hot
She guessed on the water; it dried in the pot
She guessed at the salt and what do you think?
For the rest of the day, we did nothing but drink.
She guessed at the sugar, the cause was too sweet
And by her guessing, the spoiled the meat.
What is the moral? It was easy to see
A GOOD COOK MEASURES AND WEIGHS TO A “T”

This completes “The First Five”—if you enjoy reading about other cookbooks, I will work on the next five.

–Sandy

THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK

THE ROUTE 66 COOKBOOK by Marian Clark and Michael Wallis;

The first time my then-husband and one year old son drove across country, from Cincinnati, Ohio to Los Angeles, California, most of the trip was via Route 66. If I remember correctly, we picked up route 66 in St. Louis.
We made the trip in a little over three days, driving long and hard hours. It was October, 1961, and we listened to the World Series as we drove along. Our belongings were piled into the back seat and trunk , and we had a baby bed and ironing board tied to the roof of the car (shades of Grapes of Wrath).

The baby’s mattress had been laid across the piles of clothing in the back, so he could crawl around on the mattress (mind you, this was long before car seats became mandatory much less SAFE enclosures in which children could ride). Michael’s car seat was a little cloth contraption supported by some kind of aluminum tube on which a plastic steering where was attached.

The reason for this autumn trip across country was that Jim’s best friend had moved to Los Angeles and would call on weekends to tell us about the land of milk and honey and the streets that were paved with gold. Maybe not quite – but Jim had been laid off at the factory where he worked and I quit my job downtown. It was never intended to be permanent—and it wasn’t.

I know we visited some interesting restaurants along the way, but confess to having little memory of them, except for one place where we were served huge steaks. I vaguely recall warnings about speed traps in New Mexico, climbing into the mountains of Arizona, traveling through Oatmeal, Arizona, stopping in Needles, before we began the trek across the Mojave Desert into the southern California and in particular, our astonishment as we descended from the high desert into the southern California basin, over the thick white and noxious smelling haze that lay across the land.

“This must be the smog everyone talks about,” my husband joked. Unfortunately, it really WAS.

I feel as though I missed a great deal along route 65—considering we were moving across country, and not on a vacation trip…so it was with a great deal of pleasure that I discovered The Route 66 Cookbook by Marian Clark, published by Council Oak Books in 1993. This soft cover cookbook, replete with photos, originally sold for $17.95.
Ms. Clark is a native of Hereford, Texas, in Deaf Smith County. As a child, she traveled many times on The Mother Road”.

“From Chicago to L.A.,” state the publishers, “these are the stories of Route 66’s best loved eateries, along with favorite recipes. Here is the food that brought fame to hometown diners, hotel dining rooms, cafes and upscale restaurants, all along the Mother Road. Through memorabilia, anecdotes and recipes, these eating establishments come to life page after page…”

In the Preface, Ms. Clark explains, “A book like this did not fall into places from front to back, but was fitted together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces were easy to find, others requires a careful search. A few are still missing…”

The author says that in her search, she found regional specialties, ethnic foods and down-home Americana. She says she also found a story at every stop, a living chronology of people who made their American Dream come true. She writes that the purpose of her cookbook was not to find every pieces of the puzzle, but to capture some memories, to whet the appetite, and to save some history that might otherwise be forgotten.

Interestingly, Ms. Clark states that for travelers, food is a course of comfort, a revelation of new experiences and a mirror of the lifestyle in each succeeding community. A simple bowl of chili, she says, takes on entirely different characteristics along the 2400 mile span of the highway.

This cookbook was a mammoth undertaking, for in order to write it, the author, with husband and traveling companion/photographer Donna Lea, actually made the trip. They were encouraged and supported not only by people they met in diners, cafes and restaurants and hotels along Route 66 but also by librarians, museum employees and Chamber of Commerce members in communities all along Route 66.

The Route 66 cookbook begins, then, with recipes from eateries in Chicago…and takes you through seven states, counting Illinois at the one end and California at the other.

It ends with Belle Vue French Restaurant in Santa Monica, which closed down in 1991, but is worthy of mentioning for as the author writes, “The closing of the Belle Vue is reminiscent of the passing of an epoch in the life of America’s great lost highway. Changes occur but memories remain. Historic Route 66 can never be captured and held to one time. it remains a symbol of movement, adventure and exhilaration, an icon of a more innocent time when a shining coast-to-coast highway first beckoned to intrepid travelers…it remains a living, breathing monument to the people who live along its many miles and to everyone who ever sat behind the wheel—or in the back seat—and watched the wonderful signs roll by long the Mother Road.

This is a cookbook packed with recipes and memories, a kind of time capsule of an era in danger of being forgotten. It’s a great “read” and the recipes are worthy.
There are a number of different editions available on Amazon.com. You can buy a pre-owned copy for as little as one cent ($3.99 shipping)—one of the more interesting copies I found on Amazon is the 75th Anniversary edition, published 10/1/2000 – you can buy this one for $ 3.74 (pre owned).

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

FALSE TONGUES & SUNDAY BREAD

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is a tantalizing cookbook that captivated me, not only with the title—but also from the subtitle “A Guatemalan and Mayan Cookbook.” It wasn’t so very long ago that I reviewed a cookbook for you titled “FOODS OF THE MAYA/ A TASTE OF THE YUCATAN” by Nancy & Jeffrey Gerlach.

I have never had a desire to visit any of the countries in South America—but “FOODS OF THE MAYA” piqued my curiosity. Copeland Marks, I learned, is co-author of THE INDONESIAN KITCHEN and often contributed to Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Food and Wine—all of which has me wondering how a New Yorker has produced such a tantalizing title as, FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BFEAD.

My curiosity increased in Marks’ introduction in which he writes, “several years ago I approached a number of people in Guatemala City and told them I wanted to write a book on the cuisine of Guatemala. My comment was received with utter disbelief that there was a cuisine at all; people claimed that the highland Indians ate only beans, tortillas and tamales, and that if there was any semblance of a cooking style it occurred only in the large cities…”
Marks says he collected the textiles of the Maya for twenty years, moving from one village to another where the great tribal textile tradition was still extant. He says he had been impressed by the variety of foods in the daily markets as well as the selection of spices and seasonings available. He knew, he says, there had to be a cuisine. despite fact that none of the restaurants serving tourists were presenting the authentic foods and that there was no real bibliography of cookbooks in English one could study. So Marks returned to the village weavers known to him, all of them women, and proceeded to talk about food and recorded the daily and ceremonial recipes based upon his observation and actual cooking activities with them.
Marks says it wasn’t all that easy—at one point he was bitten by a mad dog in the village of San Juan Sacatepequez and had to undergo 16 injections into his stomach—and there were many other Sacatepequez experiences—during which he asked himself if there wasn’t an easier way to find and write about a cuisine. However, he writes, after a guerilla experience, the veil lifted and Marks was able to collect considerable evidence that the cuisine of Guatemaya Maya is in reality two separate cuisines, –one of the highland Indian with their pre-Hispanic style and the other of the Spanish Colonial era which had been developed by the new race, the Ladinos, who were a mixture of the old and the new. brought about independently of the two other cuisines, a minor satellite that had developed independently in the town of Livingston in Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. It was here that indentured labor from India and Africa was brought in by the British to work in the sugarcane and forests of British Honduras, (now known as Belize). These people developed a vivid style of cooking that was tropical, based on seafood, bananas and coconut milk.

Nowhere will you find more creatively named recipes than those you will find in False Tongues and Sunday Bread! Starting with False Tongues, which is a ground beef loaf, otherwise known as Lengua Fingida.

In the Foreword, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz writes “Copeland Marks has made a meticulous study of a little-known culinary regions of the Americas—the once-great Mayan empire that stretched from the mother city of “Tikal in Guacamole , north into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through the modern state of Campeche to Palenque in Chiapas and south to Copan in Honduras, glory had begun to fade by the time of the Spanish Conquest in the sixteenth century. Surprisingly, much has survived the centuries, including the magnificent weavings and the food…the cuisines are, of course, dominated by the indigenous foods. Most of them, like tomatoes, corn, the common bean, chiles and sweet peppers were first cultivated in Mexico, where it is believed agriculture was born millennia ago. These still form the basis of the kitchen, though nowadays with the foods introduced by the Conquest and by the spread of modern trade, all the foods of the world are available. The Guatemalan kitchen of today reflects this and it has also been modified by modern cooking methods and kitchen tools such as the blender and food processor…”

Recipes throughout False Tongues and Sunday Bread reflect the combining of old and new and you will surely reflect all of these and a great deal more. Read and enjoy.

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is available on Amazon.com; prices mostly steep but there is one in pre-owned copies for $14.91.

REVIEW BY SANDRA LEE SMITH

A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD

The title to the Junior League of Jacksonville, Florida’s cookbook A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is based on a little known fact—that the hometown river of the St. John’s River is one of only two rivers flowing north in this hemisphere.
.
(And, in case you are wondering—as I was—how or why those two rivers run backward, I learned from Google that “Unless the land is totally flat, rivers of water run downhill. The vast percentage of rivers on the planet flow in a southerly direction because the source (usually in the mountains) is to the north of the mouth. If the source of a river is at a higher elevation than the mouth, that river will run from the source to the mouth. However, if that (higher) source is to the south of the mouth, that river will then flow to the north (downhill).
**
And actually—if you start digging deeper—you will find there are numerous other examples of rivers in the USA flowing north instead of south. I found the following on Google:

“How can a river flow north?” the real estate lady asked me. ‘I mean, it’s impossible. The offending river, within whose watershed I proposed to buy a house, is the Wallkill. It rises in Northern New Jersey – near Sparta – and passes by Middletown, NY, and through Montgomery, Walden, the eponymous town of Wallkill, New Paltz, Rosendale, and finally (with a complication) drains into the Hudson River at Kingston, NY – approximately 100 miles north of its source….” (There is a lot more but I’ll leave those up to you to find out for yourselves…sls)

You are invited to tour the hometown river and beach communities of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida in the Junior League’s collection of regional recipes, area history and family memories.

I was especially captivated by the reproduction of many old-time photographs, especially one of the old St. John’s Lighthouse, the oldest building in Mayport, built in 1858, and learned that two earlier lighthouses were abandoned and removed due to “their perilous proximity to the ocean.” There are a number of other equally interesting illustrations, some of which appear to have possibly been reproduced from old post cards. Many have been provided by the Jacksonville Historical Society Archives.

Published by those creative people at the Wimmer Company, “A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD” is beautifully composed and printed—and easy to read (a must for me nowadays—if I can’t easily read the print in a cookbook, I won’t buy it.)

And, A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is packed with a delectable collection of recipes; whether you fancy Madeline Maude’s Molasses Cookies (try saying that one five times real fast) or Nutmeg Ice Box cookies, Cinnamon Honey Squares, or Caramel Oat and Chocolate Bars (the nutmeg ice box cookies sounds like a good cookie recipe to add to your Christmas cookie baking list)—other sweet treats that sound enticing include a chocolate flan and a holiday sorbet made with fresh or frozen cranberries.

I tried Nancy’s Veggie relish and can personally vouch for it—plus, it’s easy to put together and lasts a long time in the frig—I was first introduced to this particular recipe by a girlfriend in Covina, California, who had relatives in the south – in Georgia and Florida. This recipe is well worth your time; keep it on hand as a standby relish or side dish.

I’m looking forward to trying Bourbon–Laced Sweet Potato Puree—I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect mashed sweet potato casserole—only please don’t top it off with marshmallows! I’ll try Grated Sweet Potato Souffle as soon as possible too.

What else sounds good to me? Asparagus with warm tomato Vinaigrette—I think it could be served as a salad or a side dish. The Glazed Red Cabbage which contains raspberry jam sounds delish to me too.

Also in the side dish category are several mouth watering Vidalia Onion recipes (if you are as partial to Vidalia Onions as I am!)

I have marked with post-its recipes for Chocolate Truffle Cake and Bunny’s Carrot Cake (I can’t wait to make this—finally!! A carrot cake that doesn’t contain two cups of cooking oil!) – and for next Christmas, I will be making MereMom’s Favorite Fruitcake—this recipe contains pecans, dates, candied cherries, candied pineapple—and no other candied fruit. I also found a recipe for Nutmeg Ice Box Cookies that is not in my ice box cookie collection.

Look for a great sounding Tortilla Soup recipe and something called Dragon’s Breath (also a soup!); Chutney Chicken salad and Pensacola Pasta Salad—the latter would make, I think, a fine addition to a holiday buffet.

Another fine feature of THE RIVER RUNS BACKWARDS is a
section of suggested party menus (the recipes, of course, can be found in the book).

Another little section is devoted to local restaurants with some of their specialty recipes; be sure to check out the steak marinade from the Beech Street Grill!

The Junior League of Jacksonville was formed in 1923 ; its charitable purpose has remained constant while its specific undertakings have met the challenges of each generation. At the time A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD was published in 1995, volunteers of the Junior League have focused on children’s issues, teen pregnancy and literacy. One project, the Family Visitation Center, developed in conjunction with the HRs and the Children’s Home Society, provides a homelike atmosphere for parents and other relatives to have supervised visits with their children in foster care. With each endeavor.

The League strives to encourage and celebrate a healthy community. The Junior League of Jacksonville was proud to present their unique and delicious collection of recipes to share with all those who enjoy a passion for cooking, tempting aromas, and memorable parties. They urge us to allow their river of recipes to flow back towards us.
Along with the many recipes, presented in a hidden spiral binding, there are reproductions of old black and white photographs including a copy of an 1858 Mayport Lighthouse and Keeperes residence from a 1900 photograph shared by the Beaches Area Historical Society Archives.

A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is available on Amazon.com; you can order a new copy for $11.66 or a pre-owned copy starting at $1.01.

And, If you are interested, the Junior League of Jacksonville published an earlier cookbook in 1982, titled Jacksonville & Company. I think the price of a new copy (starting at $ 51.69) is another example of overpricing, but pre-owned copies start at $5.50 or a collectible copy is listed at $8.77. Jacksonville & Company was priced at $12.00 when published in 1982. This cookbook is also a fine example of well-thought out publishing; it was printed by a company in Memphis that I am not familiar with—but it’s a nice thick cookbook!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

A TASTE FOR ALL SEASONS/Unique Dessert Recipes

“A TASTE FOR ALL SEASONS”, subtitled “Unique Dessert Recipes” really is unique. It is a thick spiral bound cookbook, entirely devoted to desserts – because, the authors explain, “Eat Dessert First Because Life is so Uncertain”

Isn’t that the truth? I remember one time that my sister Becky and I were in Florida visiting our mother who by then was pretty mind-muddled from Alzheimer’s; we were in a restaurant that had a buffet style menu—you could pretty much eat whatever you wanted. Our mother had in front of her a piece of pie and began eating it first. Becky asked, “Mom, why are you eating dessert first?” and mom, looking cagily at us, replied, “That’s so no one can take it away from me.” (that was an early indication that she wasn’t getting enough to eat—but that is another story for another time).

“A Taste for all Seasons” was published to honor all the thousands of children who bravely face illness every year. It was especially dedicated to Jenny Jacobs, “whose courage in the face of such adversity has given me the inspiration to put this cookbook together” writes the author, adding, “The money collected from the sale of each book will be donated to a worthy children’s charity”

I have no idea how many recipes are in this cookbook (I think there are over 350) – but there’s quite a lot—a lot of cookie recipes, dozens of cakes and pies, lots of traditional desserts such as the trifle illustrating the front of the cookbook, but muffins and breads and a lot of other sweet treats as well. This could easily become your #1 “go to” cookbooks when you need a dessert recipe—more than three dozen listed in the index on each page—lots of bar cookies, such as Carrot & Zucchini Bars, Chocolate Caramel Nut bars, Chewy Chocolate Bars and Peanut Butter & Fudge Brownies. Other peanut butter cookie recipes include Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies, and the traditional Peanut Blossom cookies. (I keep a lot of peanut butter on hand—I stock up on it when it’s on sale—because it’s always a great snack with saltine crackers, or the primary ingredient in a sweet treat).

There are also a lot of recipes with chocolate in them—and who doesn’t love chocolate? From Chocolate Chip Cookies to Chocolate Revel Bars, there are Chocolate Maroon Squares and Fudge Cream Cheese Brownies, Chocolate filled Snowballs and Chocolate Cherry Bars.

Amongst the many recipes for cakes there are many of the traditional tried and true recipes such as Carrot Cake, pound cake, Orange Date Cake and Chocolate Cake Roll – but a lot of other ones I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before—Velvet Almond Fudge Cake, Waldorf Astoria Cake, Aunt Eva’s Texas Sheet Cake and Hawaiian Pineapple Cake, one called Heavenly Hash Cake (that sounds decadent!) and Real Hungarian Strudel—this is a wonderful surprise; most recipes for strudel today call for a package of Filo dough that is available in supermarket freezer cases.

The recipe in “A Taste for All Seasons” is strudel dough made from scratch, something I haven’t seen since my grandmother stopped making strudel in her kitchen, probably a year or two before she died. This recipe provides the ingredients for making cherry strudel—which we grew up on, along with apple strudel and a wonderful pumpkin strudel that I have never been able to duplicate or find a recipe that sounds like what we ate.

Then there are a plethora of recipes we really think of as “dessert” dishes – a Nectarine and Orange trifle, Tropical Trifle, Fruit Trifle, Black Forest Trifle—need I say more?

I wanted to share a recipe from A Taste for All Seasons with you – and have selected “Trifle” – to make a Trifle you will need:

2 or 3 lb pound cakes sliced, frozen, ¼” thick
32 oz apricot preserves
1 large and 1 small Cool Whip
1 package (4 containers) Swiss Miss vanilla pudding
1 ½ to 2 quarts fresh strawberries, sliced
4 to 6 bananas, slices

Arrange in layers in glass trifle dish or a large brandy snifter:

Layer following:
Cake, apricot preserves, strawberries, bananas, ½ cool whip
Repeat twice topping with remaining cool whip. Decorate with whole strawberries Chill.

The main reason I chose this trifle recipe is because I discovered some years ago that you can use leftover cake or cookies, almost any kind of preserves—I would use up small amounts of different preserves to finish them off including strawberry preserves. When you have reached the top of the dessert dish, cover it with plastic wrap and chill in the frig at least a few hours or even overnight.
(if only adults will be eating your trifle, you can also splash the pound cake or whatever cake you are using with a little Triple Sec or any other liqueur you may have on hand.

I made the best trifle of my life using up leftover cookies and cake after one of our Christmas parties, and then served it on New Year’s day. If you prefer, you can make vanilla pudding from scratch or make it with a box of instant pudding. There are a lot of ways to put a trifle together using up what you have on hand. It will look very pretty and everyone will love it. – sls

It took a lot of searching on Amazon.com to find at least one copy listed and that was on the 3rd page of titles – many different books with the same, or almost the same, title. You need to look for “A Taste for all Seasons, Unique Dessert Recipes” by Phyllis Diamond. The one I found on Amazon is listed at $15.00. This is a great book to have in a cookbook collection.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM

Christmas on the Farm, edited by Lela Nargi, is a collection of favorite recipes, stories, gift ideas and decorating tips from The Farmer’s Wife. First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, it is a beautiful hardbound book to add to your favorite Christmas collection.

In the Introduction, Lela Nargi writes “The Farmer’s Wife (which is enjoying a resurgence of popularity for the past few years—Nargi has been publishing a number of “Farmer’s Wife” cookbooks, all available to check over on Amazon.com)– was originally a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between the years 1893 and 1939. In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women, to provide a forum for their questions and concerns, and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm—everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs, to managing scant funds and dressing the children, to keeping house and running the kitchen.”

“Christmas was the be-all, end-all celebration on the farm—more than Easter, New Year’s or even Thanksgiving,” she writes. “This quintessential holiday of giving and togetherness gave rise to pages and pages on the topic in every December issue of the magazine. And these pages weren’t just about food—although recipes for all the various components of dinners and parties and holiday gift baskets certainly abounded. The magazine’s experts expounded on the best and latest ways to decorate home, tree, and parcels. Its monthly columnists devoted themselves to the matters of home-made gifts for family and friends, and games to be played to festively capture the spirit of the season. Its readers wrote in with tales of Christmases in other lands, in times gone by. Its editors rhapsodized in and out of two wars, on the value of peace and compassion.”

“In short,” Lela explains, “The Farmer’s Wife” presented its own opinion—both grand and humble, broad and minute, and always, always bearing in mind the idea of community among its readers—about the ways in which Christmas should be celebrated…”

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM presents, with nostalgia, a way of life that has to a certain degree disappeared from the American landscape and lifestyle. The book starts off with the Christmas, 1920 issue of the magazine (you’d have to be a mentally alert ninety-three year old citizen to remember that decade);

Lela writes, “To those who live in the land of snow and Christmas trees, the twenty-fifth of December blends all its associations with the gleam of snow on hills and fields and woods, the fragrance of fir and pine, the leaping light of Christmas hearthfires. But Christmas is a world-wide day and the environment determined by climate is but an external.

They tell us, too, that ‘Christmas on the Farm’ is the only ideal Christmas. The Farmer’s Wife carries its Christmas message into all zones, from Florida, to the frozen North and from its own home in the corn belt to the edges of the continent where the oceans roar out their accompaniment to the carols of the good, glad day. It is a message of love, and faith and cheer as befits a Christmas message of love, because love is always the winner of faith, because without that staunch quality, nothing would ever be accomplished, of cheer, because when we have love and faith, the flame of cheer follows as a  matter of course—as light follows the burning torch….”

I may have been born in the wrong period of time—as I read and typed the above, it crosses my mind that this message would be “politically incorrect” in the world we live in today. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” – you have to say “Happy Holidays”—and let me say that I say MERRY CHRISTMAS at every opportunity in December. But I digress.

Curiously, in 2010, I wrote a series of poems for a poetry group I belonged to, under the umbrella heading of “An American Childhood” and I will share one of these poems with you. Mine were written before CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM was published, so I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes.

Christmas Dinner in 1929 presented its readers with an illustration of the proper way to set your table and follows with an assortment of beverages to serve your guests—from Fruit Punch taken from the January 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife to a Cranberry Cocktail from the 1934 issue and including a November 1937 recipe for Cranberry Gingerale Cocktail. To go along with the drinks are an assortment of hors d’oeuvres starting with Candied Nuts from the January, 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife but includes recipes for a relish plate (November, 1934) to a Cheese and Cracker Tray (also from the November, 1934 issue (in recognition, perhaps, for readers who might not know where to begin with cheese and crackers or preparing a relish plate) but offers as well a recipe for Cheese Puffs ((July, 1922) or pinwheel cheese biscuits (October 1926)—or, to my amusement, a 1919 Pigs in Blankets recipe…a recipe that is updated and still around 94 years later (think: Pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs cut into smaller sizes to fit the dough)—it makes me wonder if the Pillsbury Crescent rolls with hot dogs was a Bake-Off recipe way back when! There are also several recipes for oyster hors d’oeuvres which at one time were enormously popular—not so much today.

What follows next is a selection titled Table Talk, which presents inexpensive recipes for Yuletide Dishes; Main Courses featuring roast goose roast duck and turkey recipes, an impressive chart of all the correct dishes to serve with your selection of a holiday bird makes it easy for the cook to plan the entire meal easily. There are recipes for baked spiced ham, crown roast of lamb—even a curried rabbit (not my favorite meat but certainly had to be a familiar sight on the farmland table, especially during hard times. Under a chapter titled Smorgasbord, taken from the December, 1937 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, is a recipe for meat balls for your smorgasbord, followed by many still great side dishes, from a French Dressing for salad (October, 1911 issue of the Farmer’s Wife)—over a hundred years ago—as well as a Sweet Cream dressing for salad published in 1934, and red dressing for head (Iceberg) lettuce from November, 1924—but all of the salad recipes would be doable today, most for a fraction of the cost, considering that most of the recipes in Christmas on the Farm cover decades of the Great Depression plus two world wars. –the exception might be a recipe for Lobster salad—but it might interest you to know that lobster and other shell fish were affordable throughout World War II. And these were items that were not rationed during the war. And, most of the vegetable and salad recipes were made up of items grown on the farm—Glazed Carrots from the January 1931 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, Creamed Spinach from the May, 1911 issue. These are just a sampling of the recipes found in Christmas on the Farm.

The Desserts found in Christmas on the Farm are mostly simple, inexpensive such as January, 1910’s Lemon Floating Island or November, 1926’s Chocolate Blanc Mange I, a Prune Souffle fro October, 1923 or a Prune and Raisin Pudding from November, 1926, Apricot Whip from February, 1919 or a January 1911 Cranberry Pudding. Still under Desserts is an interesting story  from 1937 titled “She Sells Fruitcake”, a story that began fifteen years earlier with a  young housewife who built a career empire making and selling fruitcakes. There are recipes for fruitcakes and its cousin the Steamed Pudding plus an Eggless Fruit Cake that was made up mostly of spices, raisins and coconut—certainly a welcomed recipe in January of 1913. You’ll also enjoy reading “A Farm Woman’s Christmas Cakes” which appeared in the December, 1925 issue of the Farmer’s Wife.  There are also recipes for candy and cookies, too—candy recipes that are still popular today—toffee and fudge, creamed walnuts and maple pralines from December, 1916—plus many more.

For the farmer’s wife with little cash resources, there are oodles of directions for gifts she could make—even directions for building “Dolly a House” that was published in December, 1921. There are also directions for making many other gifts, however.

By the way, you will love the 20s,-30s,40s illustrations throughout the book. It’s really like stepping back in time with CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM.  Who among all of us would have kept the monthly magazines published throughout those decades? (Apparently, someone did!)

Christmas on the Farm is a beautiful holiday book with a most attractive red cover and is sure to please anyone who buys a copy.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from my penpal, Betsy, in Michigan—but I checked with Amazon.com; they have several paperback copies starting at $11.98 but listing a new PB copy for $15.27.   Alibris.com has copies starting at $11.98.  If you can get one of the hardbound copies, go for it – it will hold up to years of thumbing through to find your favorite recipes or new ones for you to try.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, 2013!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

As promised, the following is one of my 2010 poems from a collection I called “An American Childhood”.

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

By Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,

Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,

Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,

To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

 

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,

Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.

Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,

Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,

She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.

We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,

And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

 

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune

Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,

For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”

And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

 

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!

We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;

On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,

And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

 

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,

The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;

My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.

I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

 

You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,

When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right. 

On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,

George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

 

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,

As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,

Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,

And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

 

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,

Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,

She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,

And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

 

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,

But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;

He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,

No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

 

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,

We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,

Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get

A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

 

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright

And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”

George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;

As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

 

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,

There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”

And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;

George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

 

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;

George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,

But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!

Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

 

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,

That we all remember this night all our living days.”

And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,

Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

 

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,

Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”

And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,

That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

 

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,

Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see

That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,

“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

 

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,

And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,

Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,

“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

 

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,

I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,

How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”

Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”
George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;

Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,

For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,

And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

The first cookbook I want to bring to your attention is THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, which features the best single recipes from each year in Gourmet magazine, from 1941 to 2009. The book was published by Conde Nast Publications in 2010 and is offered by Amazon.com with a wide range of price variations – if I remember correctly, I might have bought my copy about a year ago and I didn’t pay very much for the book – and probably got free shipping as I go for free shipping whenever possible.

Gourmet magazine’s demise also was a factor—since we won’t be reading the magazine anymore, it seemed logical to me to read whatever books are published under Gourmet’s umbrella.

In acknowledgements, we learn something about the birth of the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook—that it took a few people who were relatively new to Gourmet to realize what an extraordinary resource* (italics mine) the editors had. Several editors came up with the idea of featuring the best cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s existence.

They tell us “It was not until executive food editor Kemp Minifie began trolling through the archives that we really understood that this was more than a fabulous collection of cookies; it also told a very American story.  It was no accident that every one of us found excuses to spend time in the kitchen while test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau—who threw herself boy and soul, into baking the cookies—was immersed in the project. These cookies were not only delicious; they are also a fascinating window into history that none of us wanted to miss..”

And as wonderful as the cookies were all by themselves, the editors say, “it took the passion and inspiration of creative director Richard Ferretti, associate art director   Kevin DeMaria, and photographer  Romulo Yanes to make them dance. Their vision has made this book a delight to look at…”

They also confess that in the end, the book would not have been possible without Gourmet’s devoted readers, who sent their cookies, their recipes, and their comments, for so many years.  “This book belongs to you,” they conclude, “and we thank you for it.”

For those of us who cannot cook or bake without a visual idea of what the cookie (or cake, dessert, appetizer or prime rib dinner) should look like—the table of contents will make you swoon. There is a delightful photograph of each year’s chosen winner, starting with 1941.

*I often muse longingly on that extraordinary resource buried – wherever the Gourmet magazines and accompanying research material are now stored, while wondering what editor Ruth Reichl is doing now. I was a subscriber for many years – then let my subscription lapse – because I didn’t feel that the magazine spoke to me any more. When Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet’s editorial staff – I re-subscribed – in part because I cherish and love her books, in part –because whenever she writes something, I feel like she is speaking to me. That is, I think, a gift—and one I try to impart on the readers and subscribers to my blog, Sandychatter. When someone writes to me and tells me I am speaking to them – I feel that I have learned something precious from Ruth Reichl – as well as the other cookbook authors  whose work I admire – Marion Cunningham, M.F.K. Fisher, and Jean Anderson, to name a few.

In the Introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book, the editors tell us “Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. for anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean…”

But until the Gourmet editors began to work on THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, it had never occurred to them to look at history through a cookie prism. When they decided to select the best cookie from each of Gourmet’s sixty-eight years and became captivated, not surprisingly, by the language of cookies, so they printed the recipes as they originally appeared. In the early years, they write, the recipes were remarkably casual—as anyone who has collected cookbooks for decades would know.  (Church and club recipes from decades ago were especially casual). Write the editors “[it was a kind of] mysterious shorthand that assumes every reader was an accomplished cook who needed little in the way of guidance…”  “Bake in a moderate oven until crisp” is a classic instruction, they tell us.  They thought it interesting to watch as numbers crept into the recipes in the form of degrees, minutes and cups…”

[if I am not mistaken, it was Fannie Farmer who standardized recipes with measurements back in the day when she had a cooking school].

Following the Introduction, one of the most interesting I have ever read, there are two pages of Recipe Tips, with good suggestions—some that even I didn’t know.

The first chapter is the 1940s,  in which the editors write, “1941 was an unlikely time to laundry an epicurean magazine. War was looming along with the possibility of food rationing, but Gourmet’s founder. Earle MacAusland, convinced that soldiers who had spent time in Europe and Asia would be loath to come back to meat loaf, saw an opportunity.  Little wonder that Gourmet, published from a penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, concentrated on sophisticated fare. Cookies did not figure into the equation and the few recipes that the magazine published leaned towards old-fashioned American classics like wafers and sugar crisps, with a couple of European treats…”

Check out “Cajun Macaroons”, a crisp, chewy little cookie introduced in an early 1941 issue in which we also discover that Louis P. DeGouy became Gourmet’s Chef.  (I wrote about Chef DeGouy in Sandychatter – he was chef at the Waldorf Astoria for 30 years and was one of the founders of GOURMET magazine; see TRACING THE LIFE OF LOUIS P. DE GOUY posted in april, 2011 Sandychatter blog post. I am frequently nonplussed by the number of famous cooks/chefs/cookbook authors who—although prominent in their day—have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape – sls)

The next featured cookie is an icebox treat—the war was on and sugar was rationed. Actually, it was the first item to be rationed.  Wanting to do its patriotic bit, Gourmet magazine printed an article showing readers how to use honey in place of sugar. [Although one reason sugar was rationed was due to it being made in Hawaii—which, as we know, was bombed in Pearl Harbor at the onset of World War II, but it was also an ingredient used in making gun powder!  I discovered this when doing research of an article of mine, called HARD TIMES).

Gourmet provides us with a cookie called Honey Refrigerator Cookies which does contain a small amount of brown sugar but also contains half a cup of Honey.  This is followed by a recipe called Scotch Oat Crunchies; Gourmet Magazine and everybody else were trying various recipes using oatmeal and this recipe, which produces a small round cookie that you pair up with your choice of filling – dates, raisins, figs or whatever.  I think I will have to make a batch of these. They sound wonderful and I’m speculating that they would travel well if you send cookies to relatives or a favorite serviceman or woman. Another good traveler, advises Gourmet, is a cookie called Cinnamon Sugar Crisps, from Gourmet’s entire column called “Cookie Jar”.

The first postwar cookie to appear in Gourmet is one called Date Bars. Write the editors, “The recipe appeared in one of the many articles about Katish, a remarkable Russian cook who had many fans including M.F.K. Fisher who comments “I think I have copied every one of her recipes as they’ve appeared…”—and OMG, now I have discovered yet another great cook who appears in one of the Modern Library Food books published by Ruth Reichl in 2001 and containing an introduction from Marion Cunningham. The book was originally published in 1947, written by Wanda Frolov, under the title, “KATISH, OUR RUSSIAN COOK”—just another author I have never heard of before.

The next recipe that I am charmed with, this from December 1946 is Moravian White Christmas cookies, which I can’t wait to try.

If you only buy one more Christmas cookie cookbook in your life, check out THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK which is available on Amazon.com but be forewarned – when you type in this book title, Amazon will present it with many other cookie cookbooks that you may find irresistible.  It is also available on Alibris.com for as little as $2.43 for a new copy.

Ok, I’m ready to start mixing Christmas cookie dough!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE …The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking…by Joseph E. Dabny, is a monumental work, presenting Appalachian cuisine from pioneer days to the present.

Author Joseph Dabny is a retired newspaperman and public relationships executive who has studied Appalachian and hill-country food traditions for many years.

A beautifully written foreword is provided by noted food historian and cookbook author, John Egerton. He states, in part, “In place of the denigrating mythologies of Appalachia—the buffoonish Snuffy Smith-Lil’ Abner-Beverly Hllbillies stereotypes—we see these salt-of-the-earth citizens for what they truly area: smart, industrious, creative, frugal, good-humored, and highly skilled, especially when it comes to putting great meals on the table.

Because he grew up at tables such as these in the southern arc of the Appalachian highlands—and remains close by even now—Joe Dabney knows how to recreate the atmosphere and the characters and the food…Dabney is unquestionably the right person to pull together a patchwork quilt of a book such as this…”

The author was born in South Carolina in 1929; when his father, a merchant, went bankrupt by a wave of customer credit caused by the Great Depression, the family—which included six other children—left their home in the Piedmont for a rented farm in Greneville County, a hundred miles to the northwest.  “There,” writes Egerton, “just below the eastern shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Dabneys rode out the Depression with unwavering faith, hope and charity—in God, Franklin Roosevelt, and a support group of relatives and friends…”

“Back in Kershaw at the age of seven” says Egerton, “Joe had already learned the code of the hills and it would serve him well from then on…and it is those people, the ancients and his own more recent kin and neighbors, whose voices echo through Dabny’s smooth-flowing narrative. To be sure, this is a cookbook and most of the talk is about food—or over it, at the table, –but it is much more than that. It’s about characters like whiskey-maker Theodore (Thee) King of Gum Log, Georgia, and Simmie Free of Tiger, Georgia and ninety year old Nina Garrett of Near Cartecay, another Georgia hill-country community…Dabney’s book is also about hog-killing and smokehouses, about making lye hominy and gathering greens, about ramps and cushaws and leather britches [dried green beans], about cracklin’ bread and corncob jelly*, whistle pig and poke sallet, apple butter and stack cakes…”  (I made corncob jelly last year when my youngest son had a beautiful crop of corn on the cob. I removed most of the corn from the cobs, to blanch and freeze it – and not wanting to waste all those cobs, I made corncob jelly. It’s delicious!).

Mr. Dabney acknowledges that many people helped with the creation of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE,” which includes a bibliography of more than two hundred books.

I feel as though I should know Mr. Dabney; many familiar names jump off the pages of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE. My dearly-loved Georgian columnist Celestine Sibley, who died not long before I wrote my first review of SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON BREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE in 1999 for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and had the delight of being featured in one of her newspaper articles…author Nathalie Dupree,  another favorite cookbook author, and author Janice  Holt Giles—whose books I have dearly loved my entire adult life, featuring pioneer history often centered around her home deep in a Kentucky ‘holler’ and made me love American pioneer history forever after—these are just a few of the American authors whose work I admire and relish and wish I had the ability to write like they do…they all recreate and make us familiar with the foodways and people of places such as Appalachia. Here, I noticed also, comments about Mark Sohn, whose great cookbook MOUNTAIN COUNTRY COOKING that I reviewed for CCE members some time ago.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE is not a cookbook you will breeze through…it should be savored, page by page, like a fine…scuppernong wine. Here is a history of a people and their food; a celebration of foodlore handed down from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany and the Cherokee Nation.  As Celestine Sibley would have said, “This one’s a keeper”.

SMOKEHOUSE HAM, SPOON CREAD AND SCUPPERNONG WINE was published by Cumberland House in Nashville in 1998. It is widely available on Amazon.com and other sites, starting at $3.33 for a pre-owned copy with a wide range of prices for new copies.

Mr. Dabney is also the author of THE FOOD, FOLKLORE AND ART OF LOWCOUNTRY COOKING, A CELEBRATION OF THE FOODS, HISTORY AND ROMANCE…

Another favorite of mine is BISCUITS, SPOONBREAD, AND SWEET POTATO PIE, by Bill Neal and if your interest is piqued to continue on a quest along these lines, you may want to also read John Egerton’s SOUTHERN FOOD, AT HOME, ON THE ROAD, IN HISTORY, originally published by Alfred Knopf in 1987.  Visit Amazon.com and Alibris.com for an extended list of titles by the author, not all are cookbooks.

For a more-in depth look at some of my favorite southern cookbooks, please refer to THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH, PARTS 1 AND II, posted on this blog in 2011.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith