Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

SINGLE TOPIC COOKBOOKS PART 2

If I had done a little more searching through my bookshelves, I would have discovered quite a few more books on subjects already mentioned in Part One—and I think I will have to do one topic entirely on tomatoes; I have been collecting tomato cookbooks for quite some time (and love to can tomatoes and make my own salsa).

I came across FOUR more lemon cookbooks on my shelves. First is a lovely little book called “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” by Sarah Schulte and LaLitte. Sarah is a full-time artist. Lalitte is a professional calligrapher who is interested in horticulture. Both women live in NYC, enjoy cooking and love lemons.

There are all kinds of recipes using lemons, ranging from Guacamole (which I wouldn’t attempt without having lemons on hand) to a recipe for lemon marmalade, that I think I would like to try.

While I didn’t find “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” on Amazon.com—I was nonplussed to see how many other kinds of books are available –not just cookbooks but mysteries and (I hate to admit it) lemon cookbooks that I don’t have. Just to be thorough, I checked on Alibris.com and DID find “LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS” starting at $4.00.

Another little cookbook – this time shaped like a lemon, is small enough to be overlooked. “TOTALLY LEMON COOKBOOK” by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham was published by Celestial Arts in Berkeley, California in 1999. This is a winner – it contains my favorite recipe for Lemon Chicken, Lemon Curd, (which I love making) and Preserved Lemons—which I made one time when I was living in Arleta and we had three lemon trees. There is a recipe for Lemonade Wafers that I think I will have to make soon.

Alibris.com has “TOTALLY LEMON COOKBOOK” for 99 cents. Amazon.com has the book pre-owned starting at $1.49. Do I want to know that the author created another book called “TOTALLY CHEESE COOKBOOK” but the price on that one starts around $20.00, so I won’t be buying that one anytime soon.

Another book on lemons is “LIVELY LEMON RECIPES, for Gourmet and Everyday Dishes”, by Joyce Crumal. This book was published by Howell-North Books in Berkeley, California in 1967. This is a hardcover book with loads of lemon recipes and an in-depth introduction to the history of lemons. I don’t really remember buying “LIVELY LEMON RECIPES” but I think it may have been one of the books I inherited when two of my girlfriends passed away and I was given a lot of their books.

I have one other lemon cookbook from the Country Garden Cookbook series that I believe I received when I was reviewing cookbooks for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange newsletter.

Amazon.com has “LEMONS, A Country Garden Cookbook, by Christopher Idone, and prices start at only one cent for a pre-owned copy. The county garden cookbook series are all the same size, with beautiful illustrations. You really can’t go wrong with any of these lemon cookbooks.

While searching for more one topic cookbooks—and fortunately, all of my fruit and vegetable cookbooks are in the same bookcase—I realized I had more apple cookbooks – and the first one is a small spiral cookbook in the shape of an apple. The title is “THE BIG FAT RED JUICY APPLE COOKBOOK” edited by Judith Bosley and published by Grand Books in Middleton, Michigan. You wont believe how many recipes are in this little book!

Amazon.com has this cookbook for about $5.00 for a new copy and starting at 21 cents for a pre-owned copy.

Favorite Recipes from America’s Orchards is a soft-cover cookbook titled APPLES, APPLES EVERYWHERE by Lee Jackson. On the back cover we read, in part, ‘Outstanding recipes from some of America’s finest orchards, cider mills, and fruit growers are shared in the collection” – the author has collected recipes from various apple places, many which are featured in their restaurants. You will want to try all of these recipes.

APPLES, APPLES EVERYWHERE is on Amazon.com and can be yours, new, for $11.00 or pre-owned starting at one cent. (remember you will pay $3.99 shipping and handling for all pre-owned books that you purchase).

Next is THE APPLE BARN COOKBOOK FROM THE APPLE BARN AND CIDER MILL from Sevierville, Tennessee. This cookbook was published in 1983 and printed by Wimmer Brothers, a famous cookbook publisher—but I noted at the back of the book, order forms. You can write to THE APPLE BARN COOKBOOK at Riverbend Farm, 230 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, Tenn 37862.

Nevertheless, I checked with Amazon.com and found the same cookbook, a later publication date by Bill Kilpatrick, published in 1998, paperback $4.95, pre-owned starting at one cent.

APPLE CELLAR is a spiral bound cookbook compiled by Ruth Blackett with illustrations by Karen Walker Porter. This has a fairly substantial collection of apple recipes. APPLE CELLAR is featured on Amazon.com, with a price of $7.50 for a new copy—no other copies are listed and it doesn’t provide a picture of the cookbook but since my copy was published in 1981 and so was the one in Amazon, I think it’s a fairly reasonable assumption they are one and the same. There is an apple spice cake featured in the cookbook and someone wrote “good!” alongside it. Since I just finished canning applesauce and the recipe calls for a cup of it, I think I will try this one myself.

Back in the 1970s, Penny, my penpal in Oklahoma, introduced me to Farm Journal cookbooks. We strived to own all of them – they were a cook’s bible. COOKING WITH APPLES by Shirley Munson and Jo Nelson with the Food Editors of Farm Journal produced this small soft cover cookbook which features dessert recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere. At the end of the cookbook a character doll, made by hand by a pioneer mother, is featured. The head of the doll was made with an apple. That’s one I haven’t seen anywhere else.
COOKING WITH APPLES took some deep searching on Amazon.com – I finally found a copy listed at $15.99 for a new copy and $3.32 for a pre-owned one. It was only $2.95 when it was brand new—so you may want to do some more searching depending how much you want a copy.

A larger lovely cookbook titled AN APPLE HARVEST/Recipes and Orchard Lore by Frank Browning & Sharon Silva is a beautiful hardcover cookbook. My copy was published in 1999 by Ten Speed Press and it appears to have been reprinted with a different cover. AN APPLE HARVEST took a bit of searching to find it. Amazon has it for $15.29 for a new copy and pre-owned copies available starting at $3.05.
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There are several berry cookbooks in my collection. One is shaped like a basket of berries. It was compiled by Judith Bosley and published in 1991 in Livonia, Michigan. The book is divided into four categories—take your pick of strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries or Cranberries. Recipes are mostly easy to do—like Raspberry Cordial—4 ingredients, or Raspberry Liqueur (something I love to make) –another easy to do with 4 ingredients. There is one recipe to a page and with wire spiral binding, it will lay flat on your kitchen counter. I’m in love with Judith’s Blueberry Cream Puff Pie, having made cream puffs not long ago myself.

A VERY BERRY COOKBOOK is not very big in size but it contains 117 recipes. It is available at both Amazon.com and Alibris.com and neither website shows a true depiction of the book, which puzzles me. Amazon.com offers the book for 2.26 new or starting at one cent for pre-owned. Alibris.com offers it for 99c or for $2.26 new. This appears to be part of a “grand cookbook series”—in which the Big Fat Red Juicy Apple Cookbook was featured. Also in the series (but I don’t have any of the other books) is a book about cherries, another about potatoes, another on fish food and one about cheese.

Another berry cookbook is one called BERRY-GOOD RECIPES/Strawberry Patch Cookbook. This appears to be a fund-raising project by Allegan Dollars for Scholars and is a spiral bound cookbook. Strawberries are in season in the high desert where I live, so I am looking forward to trying some different recipes. Generally, I make strawberry jam or strawberry and blueberry jam, my granddaughter’s favorite.

Finally—not to be overlooked—A Country Garden Cookbook titled BERRIES was written by Sharon Kramis with photography by Kathryn Kleinman. The introduction is one of my favorites and there is a color glossary of all the different kinds of berries, which you will surely treasure. I love the recipes but confess I am most partial to recipes for jam, which is a favorite pastime of mine. You will love all the recipes—so, so mouthwatering from beginning to end. And—BERRIES was the first title to pop up when I began a search on Amazon.com. You can own a copy of BERRIES, a Country Garden Cookbook for $1.99 new or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy. (and while I am on the topic—there are other books in the Country Garden Cookbook series—more about those later!)
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Amongst the cookbooks in my fruit & vegetable files are a few of which I have just one copy. One of these is the SPHINX RANCH DATE RECIPES, compiled by Rick Heetland and published by Golden West Publishers (A publishing company I am familiar with). Sphinx Ranch Date Recipes by Rick Heetland is available on Amazon.com for $8.95 for a new copy, or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

2. THE PRUNE GOURMET compiled by Donna Rodnitzky, Jogail Wenzel and Ellie Densen was published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco. THE PRUNE GOURMET is available on Amazon.com for $5.35 new, or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

3. Marvelous Maple Masteries Cook Book compiled by the American Maple Museum is a New York State Cookbook and is not listed on Amazon.com or Alibris.com. Marvelous Maple Masteries is listed in the introduction located on Main Street, Croghan, Lewis County, New York. This may truly be one of a kind; I couldn’t find it on Amazon, Alibris, or on Google—but I can’t wait for Christmas baking and candy making! There are several pages of maple candy recipes I want to try!

4. THE VIDALIA SWEET ONION LOVERS COOKBOOK by Bland Farms is a spiral bound cookbook which you can order at 1-800-VIDALIA. This appears to have been compiled from recipes submitted by Vidalia customers all over the USA. Vidalia onions have a very short lifespan in your supermarket, if you don’t already know this—a girlfriend from work and I ordered them by the case directly from Bland Farms for several years, sharing the expense. I’ve learned to peel and finely dice the onions and pack them in 1 or 2-cup zip lock bags to freeze. (I have a Vidalia onion chopper that is absolutely dandy in the kitchen, not just for dicing onions (fine dice or larger) but good for so many other vegetables that are easy to chop, like bell peppers. When bell peppers are in season and a good price, I stock up on those and dice them up to go in zip lock bags, as well. I dice red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers to freeze and have on hand.

This concludes part 2 of Single Topic Cookbooks – but look for part 3, soon as I get myself in gear and start writing it. (I am busy canning right now, too and have developed “sources” here in the desert. A girlfriend’s sister brought me pears and apples, as well as Asian pears; another friend brought me two little buckets of figs; my son has been bringing tomatoes and other vegetables to me—and I may have another source for tomatoes).

A thought crossed my mind as I was preparing this article to put it on my blog–any time I tell you about a cookbook being available on Amazon.com or Alibris.com –if you want to SEE the cookbook, they are almost always illustrated on the websites. I am incapable of downloading/uploading the covers–but you can see them on Amazon or Alibris.

–Sandra Lee Smith

SINGLE TOPIC COOKBOOKS – Part ONE

There is a particular kind of cookbook I am especially fond of, and that is the single topic cookbook.

Right now I am searching repeatedly for recipes to try from a cookbook titled 500 RECIPES USING ZUCCHINI or A BOOK OF FAVORITE RECIPES; A BOOK OF ZUCCHINI RECIPES – and for a good reason! My youngest son’s garden is producing zucchini and summer squash faster than I can use them. One year when Bob and I had a glut of zucchini in our veggie garden in Arleta, I tried shredding zucchini and freezing it – I won’t do THAT again anytime soon; when I defrosted the zucchini to make some zucchini bread for Christmas that year, I discovered it was totally slimy. (But if anyone out there knows of a good way to freeze shredded zucchini….feel free to write!).

Now, what you CAN do is make zucchini bread and then freeze it, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil. But I began reading through my 500 RECIPES USING ZUCCHINI/AKA A BOOK OF FAVORITE RECIPES COMPILED BY THE GARDEN CLUB OF SOUTHINGTON, OHIO and one day made a mock apple pie for a girlfriend I was meeting for lunch the next day—and she is unable to eat apples, due to a medical condition – so the mock apple pie* was a perfect dessert to make for her. There are SO many recipes in 500 RECIPES USING ZUCCHINI—I think it’s impossible to run out of recipes before you run out of zucchini. A new favorite recipe is one for a Hershey’s Chocolate Zucchini cake*; it calls for some buttermilk, which I love to have on hand when I am baking and a recipe calls for buttermilk.

I have been unable to find 500 RECIPES USING ZUCCHINI in Amazon.com, Bing.com or even on Google. However, Amazon.com has a wealth of zucchini cookbooks that you can select. The Zucchini Houdini by Brenda Stanley is one such cookbook. EVERYTHING ZUCCHINI by Katherine Hupp is another. A third title is LIFE’S LITTLE ZUCCHINI by Joan Bestwick.

A BOOK OF FAVORITE RECIPES/A BOOK OF ZUCCHINI RECIPES was compiled by the Garden Club at Southington, Ohio, in 1997.

You may want to try making Mock Apple Pie or Hershey’s Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Selected recipes will be at the end of this blog post.
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When strawberries are in season—and delicious to eat “as is” or by making an easy strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.
I like to make strawberry jam (and my granddaughter likes my strawberry-blueberry jam) but I have two strawberry cookbooks in my collection. One is the 1973 National Strawberry Festival Cookbook, while the other is a strawberry-shaped cookbook titled A STRAWBERRY COOKBOOK FROM THE STRAWBERRY PATCH by Sharon Kay Alexander, copyrighted 1980. This cookbook has a jumbo collection of strawberry recipes, collected by the author who is known locally as the Strawberry lady.

I was unable to find Sharon Kay Alexander’s strawberry cookbook but was bemused to find another strawberry shaped cookbook on Amazon.com. This one is titled Totally Strawberries Cookbook, published in 1999 by Helene Siegel and Karen Gilling.

I was unable to find an author for the 1973 National Strawberry Festival Cookbook but it appears that “favorite Manistee County area recipes [were] reprinted from the Recipes Corner the Manistee News-Advocate. Manistee County is located in Michigan.

Sharon Kay Alexander knew a good thing when she found it; in 1984 she wrote the ALL AMERICAN APPLE COOKBOOK and it is shaped like an apple. THE ALL AMERICAN APPLE COOKBOOK is jam-packed with recipes; there is even a section for making apple butter, apple chutney and cinnamon apple jelly. (the latter is one of my favorite recipes that I thought I had invented. It reminded me of something I had told a co-worker years ago—there are NO secret recipes and what goes around comes around. (I have an apple tree and just recently finished making 4 quarts—and one pint—of apple sauce. It may not sound like a lot but for one person, it’s plenty).

While I did find ALL AMERICAN APPLE COOKBOOK on Amazon.com, what I found was a 1985 sequel that isn’t apple shaped. Amazon has the 1985 edition for $7.11 (used) or $7.95 (collectible.)

I have two cherry cookbooks in my collection; one is titled CHERRY CREATIONS, THE ULTIMATE CHERRY COOKBOOK BY Dr. Myles H. Bader. CHERRY CREATIONS focuses on lowfat and non-fat recipes that use a lot of tart cherries—which I would love to be able to GET here in the high desert. We get plenty of Sweet Bing cherries—you can even go cherry picking at some of the cherry farms. CHERRY CREATIONS is listed on Amazon, new $16.20 but pre-owned starting at 1 cent—or “like new” for TWO cents. Remember that when you purchase from a private vendor, you will pay $3.99 shipping and handling—so your one cent cookbook can cost you $4.00 but still a bargain.

Another cherry cookbook is titled 600 VERY CHERRY RECIPES, compiled for Elk Rapids Rotary Partners of Elk Rapids, Michigan, by Marjory Veliquette and Julia Pollister Amos, published in 1993. 600 VERY CHERRY RECIPES is a thick spiral bound cookbooks that will keep you reading recipes for a long time. I found two listings for 600 VERY CHERRY RECIPES on Amazon.com; one for $20.00 and another for $22.00.

I love lemon cookbooks—we used to have several lemon trees down in Arleta, including a Myer lemon. THE LEMON LOVERS COOKBOOK by Peg Bailey, while not a very big cookbook, is beautifully illustrated by Laura Seeley and contains some of the recipes we all yearn for but don’t know where to find – lemon oil and lemon vinegar, lemon syrup and lemon chutney, fluffy lemon pudding cake and lemon pound cake….plus many more lemon recipes. Amazon.com has THE LEMON LOVERS COOKBOOK new for $8.99, pre-owned for one cent—listings are good and very good for your one cent.

Similarly is another little book by Brian Glover, titled COOKING WITH LEMONS & LIMES. Photographs by Richard Jung are mouth-watering. Amazon.com has COOKING WITH LEMONS & LIMES new for $5.98 or pre-owned for $1.93.

TO MAKE MOCK APPLE PIE:

1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP cornstarch
4 cups zucchini
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 unbaked pie shell

Peel & remove seeds from the zucchini. Slice like apples; cover with water and boil 2 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Mix all ingredients together except the pie crust. Gently add zucchini and mix. Pour into the unbaked pie shell and top with Dutch apple topping. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until done.

To MAKE DUTCH APPLE TOPPING:

½ CUP SUGAR
½ CUP BUTTER (1 STICK)
½ CUP CHOPPED NUTS (I used pecans)
¾ cup flour

Mix together until crumbly.

TO MAKE HERSHEY’S CHCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE:

3 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup buttermilk or sour milk
2 cups coarsely shredded raw zucchini, drained well
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts
½ cup raisins
Creamy chocolate chip glaze

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In large mixer bowl, beat eggs well. Gradually pour in oil until blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk or sour milk. Fold drained shredded zucchini into batter. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Cool 10 minutes; invert on serving plate. Cool completely. Glaze with creamy chocolate chip glaze. Makes 12 servings.

*to make sour milk, use 2 tsp vinegar plus milk to equal ¾ cup.

To make Creamy Chocolate Chip Glaze:

2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
½ cup Hershey’s semi sweet chocolate chips or mini chips
1 TBSP marshmallow crème
1 to 2 tsp hot water

In small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; immediately add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Blend in marshmallow crème. Add hot water, ½ tsp at a time until glaze is desired consistency. Makes about ½ cup glaze.

END OF PART ONE – TO BE CONTINUED
–Sandra Lee Smith

READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

If you have been collecting cookbooks for any length of time, or gravitate towards any articles or references to cookbooks that you find on the Internet, in the newspaper –or anywhere else—you may have seen the oft-repeated comment from collectors, “I read cookbooks like novels” in a sort of perplexed way, like who does anything like this? The answer is WE ALL DO and our number is legion. I might have made a comment like this myself back in 1965 when I first started collecting cookbooks and really didn’t know where to go about getting started.
There was a magazine for penpals called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle trying to find a little Hungarian cookbook for a friend and as an afterthought, wrote that I wanted to start collecting cookbooks and would buy or trade for them.

I received over 200 responses when my letter was published; I found the Hungarian cookbook published by Culinary Press (ck) and bought one for my friend and one for myself. Then I began buying anything anyone offered me and it was the nucleus of my collection. I also began finding cookbooks in used book stores—I hadn’t been living in California long enough to be familiar with used book stores such as one in West Hollywood that was a treasure trove of cookbooks, many for only $1.00 each. It was there that I acquired a handwritten cookbook that the owner of the book store offered to me for $11.00. Now that is a cookbook I have read from cover to cover many times. I have also written about it on this blog (see Helen’s Cookbook first posted June 16, 2009, along with Helen’s Cookbook the Update and Helen’s Cookbook the Sequel) – now this was a revelation. I have been collecting recipe boxes for years and had discovered filled recipe boxes—recipes collected by someone else, like a kitchen diary) – and I began wondering if there might be more self-written cookbooks like Helen’s. Aside from the very famous hand-written cookbooks such as one created by Martha Washington or Thomas Jefferson and other notables, over the years other handwritten cookbooks have come my way, thanks to friends who know about my addiction to cookbooks such as these.

Each discovery is like traveling down an amazing road and every time you come to a crossroad—it leads to more incredible and fascinating discoveries, all due to starting a collection of cookbooks.

In 1965, I was barely starting a collection. It was a stellar year. I learned how to drive that year, and also acquired an Australian penpal, Eileen, and a Michigan penpal, Betsy, who are still both a part of my life. That was also the year I met Connie, who initially babysat for me—but became a lifelong friend who was also the godmother to my youngest son, Kelly. Her children were as much a part of my life as my own sons. Connie began collecting cookbooks too.
It was right about this time that I became interested in former Presidents and the White House, and Connie and I bought a “lot” of White House, American presidents, sight unseen, from someone for $100.00. We scraped together the money and when the books arrived, divided them between us. (My discovery that cookbooks and the White House/American presidents were connected – came much later and now those books take up several shelves in my bookcases).

So, it wasn’t very long before I was collecting not only cookbooks—but books about the White House kitchens and chefs, books about American Presidents and their families, and books about First Ladies (these take up an entire bookcase).

I’m not sure when I first became aware of an antiquarian bookseller in San Gabriel…she compiled an annual booklet, “200 Years of Cookery” and I bought some books from her—this was another revelation; the booklets were reasonably priced and became my wish books. I remember visiting her once at her home in San Gabriel; I don’t remember the year—or who drove me there. I can’t imagine Jim taking me there—and Bob was familiar with San Gabriel. I still have a 1974 copy of “200 years of Cookery” and only thought, last night, to look up Marian Gore on Google. I learned that she passed away in 2009 at the age of 95. It’s quite possible that I met her, at her home in San Gabriel, with Bob accompanying me. I met him in 1986 and around that time had begun to focus on cookbooks compiled by women’s clubs and churches.

However, I discovered that I was as interested in reading cookbook catalogues as I was in reading the cookbooks themselves. Edward R. Hamilton publishes catalogues of books –including those devoted solely to cookbooks.

I would begin collecting L.A. County Fair cookbooks in the 1980s when Bob and I began entering my jellies, jams, pickled cherries and cantaloupe in the annual fair competition. If your recipes won a first, second, or third prize ribbon, you were invited to submit your recipe for the next fair competition the following year. My curiosity was piqued and I began searching for the L.A. County fair cookbooks published before I began entering it – and I did find them….but I stopped collecting the books when I was no longer able to enter the fair or get to the fair when it was being held at the Pomona Fairgrounds.

But I was still curious – what about cookbooks published by other county fairs? And what about STATE FAIR ANNUAL COOKBOOKS? (To the best of my knowledge, Texas publishes the best State Fair cookbooks…at least they did when I was broadening my search for anything fair related). The glory of fair cookbooks is that they are always reasonably priced. And this, my friends, was one of those crossroads I mentioned earlier.

As for Helen’s cookbook, also mentioned previously—it was through a penpal living in England that I learned who Helen was and something about her life; she and her husband never had any children of their own, which probably explains how her exquisite handwritten cookbook ended up in a bookstore. What charmed me most were the detailed descriptions of her dinner parties, who was invited, how everyone was given a task to perform, and what she served to them—including the recipes.

And it was because of Helen’s cookbook that I began compiling 3-ring binders of recipes…some clipped from magazines, others from other sources—until there are now over 50 of these 3-ring binders stuffed full of recipes. There are twelve binders full of cookie recipes alone. But back in the 1970s I began keeping descriptions of MY own dinner parties, who was invited, what I served and how I prepared the various dishes. I think I kept these dinner party descriptions up until the 1980s when I came to another crossroad.

For years I collected gingerbread house recipes from magazines (all of which ended up in one of my 3-ring binders) until one year Bob and I decided to build our own gingerbread house; the first house we created wasn’t too great but the next one we built was a beauty. When a visiting four-year old great-niece broke off pieces of the chicklet fence, we decided not to re-build and fed it to the birds. Bob was a genius at working on graph paper to copy designs in the magazines to a bigger size. He would make and cut out all the pieces to the gingerbread house. Together we would create gingerbread dough and roll it out to lay the pieces down on the gingerbread dough, cut the pieces out and bake them. It was an enormous undertaking! I’m sorry now that we didn’t attempt to enter THAT into the L.A. County Fair. Well, that’s how I started collecting cookbooks devoted to the topic of gingerbread houses. There were a multitude of other gingerbread creations you could make, not just gingerbread houses. One year we attempted a gingerbread dollhouse that was featured in one of the houses. That was an unusually wet winter and the house sort of collapsed from the dampness. Since then, I buy kits for my grandchildren and me to put together and decorate. And I still like to read the gingerbread house cookbooks!

Do I read cookbooks like a novel? Absolutely. Doesn’t everybody?

–Sandra Lee Smith

SOME MORE FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

My collection of Christmas-themed cookbooks actually fills one entire large bookcase; even so, there are a few favorite cookbooks that I turn to year after year. Ditto some of the recipes typed or written on 3×5” recipe cards—the cookie recipe cards fill have a dozen recipe boxes but there are some that are more worn and frequently used than others. I imagine most of us have favorites like these.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Mimi Sheraton’s VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS.  Even the title is captivating. VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS was first published in 1968. Mine is a revision published in 1981 by Harper & Row.

VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS is subtitled “A cookbook of cakes, cookies, candies & confections from all the Countries that celebrate Christmas” Sheraton had me captivated in the first paragraph of the Preface, where she writes, “When this book was first published thirteen years ago, it represented the results of what might be considered a hobby—a joint interest in Christmas and in food that had led me to collect recipes for traditional Christmas confections over many years…”  (Are we soul sisters? Long lost twins?)

Later, she comments, “No holiday has a wider variety of special symbolic foods than Christmas and anyone who prepares the cakes, cookies, candies and drinks related to that holiday can feel a long connection with the past, for many of the foods maintain traditions that began centuries ago—some even before Christianity itself…”

Following is the Introduction featuring the Six Weeks of Christmas, From Advent to Twelfth night in which Sheraton writes, “No Christmas memory would seem to be complete without recollections of the holiday foods, most especially the sweets: the yeasty coffee breads golden with saffron and mace; the aged and ripened fruit cakes spiked with whiskey or brandy and jeweled with bits of candied fruits; crisp butter cookies peppery with ginger or aromatic with anise; darkly rich mince pies, plum cakes and puddings; the flaming wine punches and soul-warming wassails; the sensuously sweet taffies and marzipan candies; and the pervasive comfortable scents of vanilla, peppermint, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves…”  This is followed with all the Six weeks of special holiday observances, including December  6th and 7th, St Nicholas Eve and Day, which was celebrated religiously in my childhood home. We hung long white socks of my father’s (because they were bigger) and would find a tangerine, some walnuts, hard candies and maybe a small toy in our stockings. I don’t recall ever having a tangerine at any other time of the year and it still amazes me to think we had a prolific tangerine tree in our front yard in Arleta.

January 6th is known alternatively as Three Kings’ Day or Night, the Feast of the Magi, Twelfth Night – to us, as children, it was the Feast of the Three Kings and my grandmother made doughnuts for us – each doughnut would have a coin in it, usually a nickel or a dime, I think.

Because I want to remain focused on cookies, I’ll save a more detailed description of VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS for another time – Chapter Three, Cookies & Small Cakes, starts with Drop and Bar Cookies from various countries – Brandy Snaps from England, Anise Drops from Germany, Canadian Fruit squares and Elise Lebkuchen from the ancient Bavarian city, Nuremberg. I think the Honey Lebkuchen is the recipe I have been making for several decades.

There are recipes for Hazelnut Macaroons, Pine Nut Macaroons, Chocolate Macaroons—take your pick!  Pepper Nuts is called Pfeffernusse in Germany or Pepparnotter  in Sweden—in any language they last a long time if stored in an airtight container and the recipe makes about nine dozen cookies!  Sheraton comments that in Pennsylvania Dutch country, this dough (Pefferniss) is allowed to ripen at room temperature for one to  two weeks, after which it is shaped into rolls, chilled and cut  to bake –they can be rolled in powdered sugar while still warm or allowed to cool and iced.

My daughter in law’s favorite Snickerdoodles are in VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS with the comment that the recipe is Pennsylvania Dutch and New England—I wonder if she knows that?

There are molded and shaped cookies, such as Hazelnut Crescents from Northern and Central Europe and Finnish Chestnut Fingers that I am thinking would be fun to make (and why didn’t I collect more chestnuts from the grounds of a place my friend Bev & I visited in Oregon? The ground was littered with fallen Chestnuts; I took about a dozen to bring home with me because they look just like Buckeyes from the Buckeye Tree in Ohio. In Ohio, women keep a buckeye in their handbags for good luck).

There are recipes for Swedish cinnamon Sand cookies which I think I would like to make this year, Baseler Leckerli from Switzerland, the Pennsylvania Dutch Belsnickles (which used to be given to masked revelers—Belsnickles—who went bell ringing from one house to another on Christmas Eve) and Bellylaps, another Pennsylvania Dutch cookies similar to Moravian Brown Sugar Cookies but are a little less brittle and can be used for tree ornaments. But I think I would like to try making Swedish Gingersnaps which should be rolled to paper thinness—or perhaps Moravian Brown Sugar cookies, which also must be rolled paper-thin.  This is just a sampling of the cookie recipes to be found in VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS.

It is listed in Amazon.com for $19.00 (hardcover, new) or 95c for a pre-owned copy. I could not find a listing on Alibris.com

One of my older (1971) cookbooks is HOMEMADE COOKIES by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.  Years ago – in the late 1960s, early 1970s, I think – a penpal began introducing me to Farm Journal cookbooks. These became my tried-and-true recipes of the time. (Every so often I find a copy of this cookbook at the Lancaster Friends library sale – I snap them up to give to friends; the cookbooks are good.) There are hundreds of recipes and they’re all good.  My copy is almost falling apart, it’s been used that much. This one is featured on Amazon.com starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

Another favorite cookbook from 1963 is THE ART OF MAKING GOOD COOKIES PLAIN AND FANCY by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney—another one of those can’t-be-beat cookie cookbooks. (This one is featured on Alibris.com for 99c. Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at one cent).

A third favorite is COOKIE COOKERY by John Zenker and Hazel G. Zenker, published in 1969. I found COOKIE COOKERY on Amazon.com, pre-owned copies starting at one cent.

A little treasure of a cookbook that was given to me by a friend is THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BOOK by Virginia Pasley, published in 1949 (I wasn’t collecting cookbooks back then but this is one of those timeless cookbooks written in a friendly chatty style).  Alibris.com doesn’t have this one in stock, but Amazon.com does, starting at $1.32 for a pre-owned copy.

FAVORITE BRAND NAME 100 BEST HOLIDAY COOKIES is nicely designed with hidden wire binding and a lot of color photographs of the cookies. I found this one on Amazon.com new for $2.97 and pre-owned starting at one cent. I have half a dozen post-its sticking out of its pages- the recipes I thought I might like to try this Christmas. (Reminds me of the saying “so many books, so little time” – only I would call it, SO MANY COOKIES, SO LITTLE TIME).

These are a few of my favorite cookbooks – as time permits, I will try to share some of my other favorites with you.  Happy Cookie Baking!!

–Sandra Lee Smith (portions previously posted on sandychatter in 2011)

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