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

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 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



*Your nightstand is piled high with cookbooks that you read in bed at night the way other people read novels.  It’s not unusual for you to find a couple of cookbooks in the bed with you when you awaken in the morning.

*You immediately head for the cookbook section of your favorite bookstore, just to see what’s new;

*You seldom leave a bookstore without buying a few new cookbooks;

*You go to the Friends of the Library book sales just to search for cookbooks. You might even buy some you already have but will buy them anyway because they are only fifty cents each;

*You don’t see anything unusual about having more than one edition of a favorite cookbook, such as the Joy of Cooking; your logic is that there might be some different recipes in the newer edition;

*You don’t want any of the pages of your cookbooks to become stained or spattered so you will copy a recipe on your printer instead of referring directly to the cookbook. Your refrigerator door is covered with recipes copied from cookbooks;

*When someone says they have a huge collection of cookbooks – at least three hundred books – you snicker because you have more than three thousand cookbooks;

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks is – browsing through book catalogs and websites that feature a lot of cookbooks;

*Your idea of a perfect day is spending it in used bookstores that have a lot of old cookbooks for sale—and the storekeeper has to help you lug them all to the trunk of your car when you are finished shopping (one of my favorites is in downtown Cincinnati);

*When someone asks you “What’s your favorite cookbook, the one you can’t live without?” you have to admit you probably have over a hundred favorites you can’t live without.

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks and recipes – is writing about them!    You have discovered that it is as rewarding—even more so—when you have the opportunity to participate in the creation of a community (church or club) cookbook. The first one I participated in was RECIPES ROUNDUP for Beachy School in Arleta  (California) in 1971. I volunteered to help and ended up taking over the entire project, typing all of the recipes before submitting them to a publisher. Several of the PTA ladies that participated in the project became life-long friends.  A few years later my sister Becky & I both participated in the compilation of a Christmas cookbook from a group in Cincinnati. And she was a major driving force in a cookbook project by the Cheviot PTA in Cincinnati—she did all of the graphics and submitted dozens of our family’s favorite recipes. Oddly enough—this spiral bound cookbook published by a PTA in Cincinnati somehow ended up in the hands of a girlfriend of mine when she was living in Maryland but some years later, returned to California—where she and her husband retired in the mountains in Southern California—I spotted it on her cookbook shelves one day when I was visiting—and couldn’t believe she had a copy of that particular cookbook.

The greatest project was the family cookbook, Grandma’s Favorite which ended up taking us years to get published in 2004. It’s my favorite turn-to cookbook though—it contains most of the family favorites. Another project that took years to be published was The Office Cookbook that a group of us where I worked began working on in the 1980s. The original manuscript contains over 400 recipes and when a co-worker learned that I had all of them, typed up, in a notebook – he asked if he could copy it and I said yes, of course. He printed both sides of the pages and put the book into nice clear plastic binders—and presented me with a copy.  Some twenty-something years later, when the company’s fund-raising committee wanted a sure fire fund-raiser – I suggested the Office Cookbook. It was reduced to 200 recipes—many of the original contributors had either retired or passed away—but finally it was published in 2002, still under the name of The Office Cookbook. It was never anything else.  But when I want a particular recipe, I almost always turn to the UN-condensed typewritten collection in a 3-ring binder.

*A few years ago, I became acquainted, long-distance, with a woman who is an editor for a cookbook publishing house.  I often think – that has to be the BEST job of all! Kudos to you, Sheila.

Happy Cooking!




cincinnati skyline from kentucky shore

FORTUNE magazine called Cincinnati the best run big city in the United States. LIFE magazine said “Cincinnati has one of the best police forces in the country”. TIME Magazine, on the other hand, once labeled Cincinnati “dowdy”!! Dowdy? Cincinnati? I knew there was a good reason why I don’t subscribe to TIME.

To Indians, Cincinnati was a calamity; to slaves, it was a promised land and to the REDS Baseball Team, it’s a place to play ball. To children on skates, it’s a seven-hilled impossibility, while to Proctor Gamble it was a place to make soap. To beer-makers it represented memories of “over the Rhine”. Which Cincinnati you know depends on your point of view…” from “Vas You Ever in Zinzinnati” by Dick Perry, published by Doubleday in 1966.

You may have heard of my hometown, Cincinnati—which I have written about several times on this blog. I was born and raised in Cincinnati; as were both of my parents. My paternal grandparents were German and Hungarian and came through Ellis Island by way of Rumania. From there they went to Cincinnati. Quite possibly, they had friends or other connections which led them to Cincinnati, which already had a huge German population by the time they got there.

My mother’s parents were definitely German as well but we know so little about their roots. My father’s parents immigrated to the United States when they were in their early twenties and we all grew up strongly influenced by our surroundings. North Fairmount was heavily populated by German Americans and Italians. South Fairmount was more heavily populated with Italians. My grandparents bought a house on Baltimore Street when their daughter, my Aunt Annie, was a toddler. (The story was that they bought this house “in the country” because my Uncle Hans was asthmatic. I guess North Fairmount was country to them, back then.)  The three storied big brick house was large enough to raise their children in, and when those children got married, they lived in separate apartments in the same house—until they could afford to buy a house on their own. My parents lived in the house on Baltimore until I was five years old. That meant they lived in my grandmother’s house for nine years. Some of those years were a part of the great depression and some were a part of World War II.

I have no real memories of living in the house on Baltimore Street although when I reflect on scattered early memories, I think some of those must have occurred when we were still living in my grandmother’s house.

Down the street from my grandmother’s house was St. Leo’s church and school. My father, his younger brother and their younger sister all went to St. Leo’s—not only that, but all three had Sister Tarcisius in the first grade—as did my older sister, older brother and me—along with two of our cousins. Sister Tarcisius taught first grade at St Leo’s for over fifty years before celebrating her Golden Jubilee as a nun and retiring to the convent in Oldenburg, Indiana.  There was a continuity to our lives back then—often when I became girlfriends with someone in my class and went to her home, a parent was sure to say “Oh, yes! Schmidts! I went to school with your father”. (Many years later, my youngest brother Scott would buy and remodel the house that had belonged to his first wife’s grandmother. When I first saw the house, I realized it had once belonged to my classmate Joan—whose younger sister, Val, became the grandmother from whom Scott bought the house.

Our neighborhood was all of North Fairmount and extended into South Fairmount in one direction and English Woods in another. Now, if you drive through these neighborhoods they are almost all downtrodden and ramshackle—a far cry from the neat and tidy brick houses that lined all the streets with geraniums in the front windows that were a part of our lives. I think we could have approached any house in an emergency for blocks around—not that anything serious ever happened. It wasn’t anything any of us ever thought about—we rode bicycles and skates and/or walked from one place to another without ever stopping to consider our safety or security.

There was a state of stability and absence of disruption throughout our lives, throughout the lives of our parents (despite the great depression and WW2) that can’t be found in Southern California where I have spent most of my adult life but I think still exists in most of Cincinnati, where girlfriends of mine who grew up in North College Hill married and bought houses near their parents’ homes, to raise their children in close proximity to their parents.

We took good cooking for granted, I’m ashamed to admit. I don’t think any of us ever stopped to think twice about my grandma’s exquisite Palascinta (Hungarian pancakes—like crepes); grandma’s strudels with dough made from scratch—we each had a favorite filling – mine was spicy pumpkin—but any of them, apple, cherry, or cheese, were to die for—or homemade noodles drying on the backs of kitchen chairs—or the German wurst sausages, delicious with a chunk of fresh-baked salt bread.

My grandmother made Dobos tortes with up to fourteen layers of sponge cake, spread with bittersweet chocolate frosting; she made dozens and dozens of cookies at Christmas-time—I only remember the diamond shaped cookies dipped in egg white and spread with finely chopped walnuts and sugar although my older sister swore there were many other kinds of cookies.

We went to grandma’s house for lunch most days of the week during the school year—her house was just a short walk up the street from St. Leo’s—and feasted on Hungarian goulash and salt bread, or a bowl of chicken broth which contained something WE called “rivillies” but which, I discovered in one of William Woys Weaver’s books—was a tiny Pennsylvania Dutch dumpling called Rivels or Riwweles which is probably much the same as my grandmother’s Rivellies. We also grew up on Spatzle and homemade noodles, dumplings, sauerkraut, scrapple, and hasenpfeffer. Scrapple is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, which is baked in a loaf pan and then kept refrigerated. You sliced some of it and fried it in a skillet for a breakfast side dish. (I could live without the hasenpfeffer but loved everything else).

Or grandma might make a huge chicken sandwich for you (if you were the only child who happened to be around) with leaves of lettuce fresh from her garden, and mayonnaise spread thick on homemade bread. We often had Palascinta for lunch, with jelly spread over it and then rolled up; we called the crepes “German pancakes” not knowing their true origin was Hungarian. If nothing else, we might have a snack of a slice of rye bread spread with sour cream.

My grandmother taught her cooking skills to her daughter and daughters-in-law. Many years would pass before I realized that my two aunts, Aunt Annie and Aunt Dolly, knew how to make many of Grandma’s desserts and savory dishes. My mother learned how to make bread; my mother made two huge loaves of bread twice a week most of my adolescent years. Aside from the recipes my aunts remembered, most of grandma’s recipes—all learned from watching, none written down—are now lost. A few were written down but most are gone, along with my mother and aunts and grandmother.

For one thing, my grandmother never wrote much in English except for her name; some times she would instruct me to write something down for her. But German was her native language and she and my grandfather had many Immigrant friends in Cincinnati who spoke their language. My grandfather was a tailor of men’s suits and spoke seven languages fluently. The shopkeepers with whom grandma did business all spoke German, too.

My grandparents belonged to a lodge that was downtown near Findlay Market; it was a place where the men played cards and smoked pipes in one room while the women cooked or talked in another room. (Only recently I discovered there were many such lodges).  Sometimes there was a wedding in a nearby Catholic church and the reception might be held at this lodge; I remember the dancing and the music. We went to and from the lodge on the streetcars—later buses took over. When we transferred buses at Colerain and Hopple Street, my grandfather would hurry into Camp Washington Chili Parlor to get Coney Islands for us to eat when we got home. (I remember there being a coupon in the Sunday Paper – five or six Coney islands for 25 cents).

Findlay Market was an open market with stalls of fruit-and-vegetables—around the perimeter of the open stalls there were grocery stores—I particularly remember a meat market where grandma sometimes bought a chicken.  Grandma was ahead of her time carrying tote bags made out of oil cloth and often taking a grandchild along to help carry the bags. In recent years I visited Findlay Market with one of my nephews; it is over a hundred years old and has been vastly renovated—almost all the stores and shops are now indoors and the meat market always had us drooling over the many kinds of sausages.

I grew up in Cincinnati, learning my way around the city at a very tender age—by the time I was ten years old I was making trips downtown by myself—first to make payments on a coat my mother had in layaway at Lerner’s for which she paid $1.00 a week and I’d have two nickels for bus fare each way. Later, I took my two younger brothers with me downtown to do our Christmas shopping. There were no malls at this time—all the shops and stores were located downtown, near Fountain Square and ladies would go downtown to shop wearing dresses and high heels. Can you imagine?

At an early age—maybe ten or eleven—I began to discover the used book stores (as well as small out-of-the-way dusty antique stores that often had a tray of books outside the door; The kind of books I bought then, for 25 cents each, were often light romance, I think—cookbooks were far from my radar!

We shopped primarily at the five and ten cent stores – there were three or four of these—one was a Newberry’s and another was a Kresge’s, but the chief attraction was    the Woolworth store that had a lunch counter where we—my two younger brothers and I—could buy a grilled cheese and coke to share—and sometimes have enough for a bag of caramel corn which I have been addicted to all my life. We somehow managed to buy Christmas presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings—which amazes to me this very day. It must have been like the loaves and fishes—because somehow, doling out pennies for purchases, we always managed to get something for everybody.  I was equally addicted to “downtown” – to me, downtown has been and always will be “downtown Cincinnati” During the holidays my brothers and I visited all the major department stores to stand in line to see Santa Claus but primarily to get a free candy cane. The store window displays alone were worth a trip downtown.

One of my favorite stores – not a 5&10 cent store – was Shillito’s—Cincinnati’s first department store which opened in 1832. One of the exits, close to my bus stop,was in the book section, where Nancy Drew books were on display.  One year my brother Jim gave me five new Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I was hooked on Nancy Drew. I think the books were about a dollar each—and just GETTING a dollar and hanging onto it long enough to go downtown to buy the next book was a task unto itself. Eventually I discovered that the Nancy Drew books at used book stores were generally a lot cheaper—and I fell in love with the old illustrations in these books.

Another beloved place when I was a child – not only to me but to my siblings as well – was the Windmill Restaurant. It was a cafeteria style restaurant, unfamiliar to all of us—where you could pick and choose whatever you wanted to eat. It was a special treat to do downtown to the Windmill Restaurant with Grandma and be able to eat anything you wanted.  (a foreign concept to children of the 1940s, I assure you.)

Restaurant food with my parents sometimes had strings attached. I remember once being in a restaurant with my parents; we all ordered hamburgers – but I stipulated no mustard on mine. The hamburger arrived with – guess what? Mustard. I refused to eat it and my parents refused to send it back. That hamburger traveled home with us in the glove compartment and I don’t remember eating anything else on the way home.(many, many years later I began eating mustard—it’s almost a “must” on a corned beef sandwich but I remember, nevertheless, a battle of wits between me and my parents.

The Windmill Restaurant and Grandma are irrevocably tied together. I never went there without her.

There were other downtown attractions; during the holidays, Lytle Park had a “live” nativity scene that was a “must” if you were downtown. Lytle Park, as I remember it, no longer exists*. When the Freeway, Interstate I-71, was built in the mid 1960s. significant changes were made to the area. A tunnel was built under the park; the original Lytle Park had to be dismantled/demolished. After I-71 construction, the park was reconstructed, and “One Lytle Place” (a luxury nigh-rise apartment building) was constructed.

Another favorite event during my childhood was the circus. The only circus I know anything about was one that came to town, to the downtown area. This was the Shrine  Circus and our Uncle George gave us free tickets to go. I went there with my two younger brothers. We didn’t have any money for caramel corn or soft drinks, but it was enough just being there.

We went to the Policemen’s Picnic once a year and it was not uncommon for families to pack up a supper and go to one of the parks located in Cincinnati’s many forest areas—there was Winton Woods and Mt. Airy Forest, just to name two.

Cincinnati has a fine zoo and sometimes you might go with Grandma to the zoo, just to walk around. There are many other fine places to visit in Cincinnati, such as the museums.  What I have described to you, however, are the places I was familiar with as a child

Cincinnati  has, for many decades, been a city of great activity and prosperity. By 1830 it was the 6th largest city in the United States. In a book titled “CINCINNATI, A PICTORIAL HISTORY” by Marilyn Green and Michael Bennett, the authors tell us that “increasing numbers of steamboats were built here, and the huge pork-packing industry gave the city the name of “Porkupolis”, one result of this highly successful business being the common sight of herds of pigs being driven through the streets a long time ago. Many of today’s great businesses were founded, such as Procter & Gamble; showboats docked at public landings and theatres opened their doors to increasingly elegant crowds who were entertained by everything from Shakespeare to grand opera…”

It was during this period (1820-1865) that many illustrious visitors and residents arrived  at the Queen City. Harriet Beecher Stowe came with her amazing father, the head of Lane Seminary; Lafayette came and was nearly killed with hospitality; Charles Dickens praised Cincinnati warmly, and Horace Greeley compared it favorably with California. Jenny Lind produced the hysterical enthusiasm that marked her American tour and Stephen Foster worked and composed in the city. A runaway boy who would become famous as Mark Twain boarded a steamboat for New Orleans from the Cincinnati public landing. Thomas Edison was here, and it was he who received the telegraphed news of Lincoln’s assassination. I was bemused to think that Mark Twain boarding a steamboat at the public landing. I remember the public landing and boarding a steamboat to ride up the river to Coney Island (Cincinnati’s version of the famed amusement park).

But mostly, when I think about Cincinnati, I think about good food and recipes and cookbooks.  I think good cooking must be pretty much taken for granted in my hometown and I was nonplussed when I began removing Cincinnati and greater Cincinnati cookbooks from my shelves, to discover just how many cookbooks I have that are devoted to just this one city.

You may recall (I’ve mentioned it a time or two) that the very first community cookbook in my collection was purchased by my father from a co-worker at Formica, in 1961. Its full title is “50th Anniversary Cookbook Women’s Guild Matthew’s United Church of Christ”  I think my father paid a dollar each for several copies – one for me, one for my sister Becky and one for my mother. It’s always been one of my favorite cookbooks—if nothing else it amuses me to think that daddy had NO IDEA what he was starting when he bought that book for me. Until then, I had never seen any community (or church or club) cookbooks; I had no idea they even existed. A few years later I began to make a serious effort to find other Cincinnati cookbooks. When I began making trips back home with my children in the summertime, my young brother and I began making trips to Acre of Books, in downtown Cincinnati. I rarely made it beyond the cookbook section.  One of the oldest  cookbooks in my collection is a ring-bound book, sans covers, titled “TESTED RECIPES – CALVARY CHURCH, CLIFTON, OHIO.” (Clifton is a suburb of Cincinnati) It’s missing a publishing date, also, and clippings fal out of it whenever I pick the book up—oh, but I love this old cookbook with or without the covers. The former owner inserted pages of her own handwritten recipes or recipes clipped from newspapers and pasted inside.

Perhaps preceding this is a book in my collection titled “KEY TO THE CUPBOARD”  compiled by the Daughters of Veterans (as in the Civil War, 1861-1865) Like so many other old cookbooks, this one is undated; judging by the ads, I would guess it to be published in the early teens—sometime before World War I There is a full page ad titled Mrs. Abraham Lincoln Tent No. 14, and below that DAUGHTERS OF VETERANS 1861-1865, followed underneath by MEETINGS HELD AT MEMORIAL HALL. At the bottom of the page is written “Our Object To Aid and Assist the needy Veterans; to care  for their Widows, and their Orphans, and to perpetuate the memory of the heroic dead, and at the bottom CINCINNATI, OHIO. Amongst the ads is one for Rookwood Pottery. I found a recipe inside for Amber Soup, which was an interesting surprise—only recently I found a reference to Amber Soup while working on What’s Cooking in the White House Kitchen. I also found some recipes for “peach mangoes” and “Sweet Cucumber Mangoes”.  You may recall that I have written about “mangoes” before—it was a Cincinnati term for green bell peppers for many years—the transition from a pickled fruit to being called “mangoes” seems to have stayed strictly in the greater Cincinnati region.  (See “Stuff Mangoes or a Rose by Any Other Name”)

I began collecting cookbooks in 1965; it wasn’t until the early 1970s that I was able to travel home to Cincinnati with my children, to spend from a few weeks to a few months of the summer with my parents, during which time I began to seriously search for Cincinnati cookbooks. One summer we had so much “stuff” to take home that I packed it all in boxes and we took the Greyhound Bus back to California – there was no weight restriction on our boxes, mostly filled with books; it gave a Redcap pause at the downtown Los Angeles Bus Depot when my husband met us there and we enlisted the Redcap to haul all the boxes to our station wagon.

“What you got in here?” he queried. “Feels like FORT KNOX!”
“Not quite, “ I replied, “Just BOOKS!”

Over the years (and many trips to Cincinnati) other old Cincinnati community cookbooks gradually found their way onto my bookshelves. There is DEACCONESS HOSPITAL COOKBOOK published sometime in the 1930s,

THE GARDEN CLUB OF CINCINNATI COOK BOOK published a revised edition in 1937 (I never found an earlier edition),

While in 1950 THE WIEDEMANN BOOK OF UNUSUAL RECIPES was compiled by famous chefs of the day,

THE CINCINNATI COOK BOOK RECIPES COLLECTED BY THE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY OF THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL was published in 1967 and features drawings of famous Cincinnati landmarks, penned by artist Caroline Williams,

In 1970 the Altrusa Club of Cincinnati published ALTRUSA’S CINCINNATI CELEBRITY COOKBOOKI featuring cartoons of “The Girls” for which cartoon artist Franklin Folger became known,

CINCINNATI CELEBRATES presented by the Junior League of Cincinnati was published 1974,

Also in 1974, Cheviot PTA compiled HAPPINESS IS…CHEVIOT PTA COOKBOOK (one of my favorites—my sister Becky did the illustrations and submitted many of her favorite recipes to this cookbook

ONE POTATO TWO TOMATO, A Cookbook, was published in 1979 by the Catholic Women of Cincinnati,

CINCINNATI RECIPE TREASURY/The Queen City’s Culinary Heritage, by Mary Anna DuSablon, published in 1983 is, without question, my favorite all-time Cincinnati cookbook—it was, and still is, my favorite reference book when it comes to a Cincinnati Recipe.

There is a hardcover book called TREASURED RECIPES FROM CAMARGO TO INDIAN HILL which was compiled in 1987 by the members of the Indian Hill Historical Society,

RIVERFEAST/Still Celebrating Cincinnati by the Junior League of Cincinnati was published in 1990,

While in 1998 the Junior League of Cincinnati returned with “I’ll COOK WHEN PIGS FLY AND THEY DO IN CINCINNATI, another one of my favorite cookbooks.

When asked what my favorite cookbook is, I have to confess, it’s whatever I am reading at the moment. But one of the most outstanding collections of recipes were compiled by Fern Storer, who—for decades—was a food editor for the Cincinnati Post. Whenever my mother was putting together a box of things to send to me, she’d ask if there was anything in particular that I wanted; “Yes,” I always replied, “send me some of Fern Storer’s columns—and maybe a loaf of Rubel’s Rye Bread!” Later on the family would send me packets of Skyline Chili powder mix.

I wish I could have met Fern Storer. Well, during one of my visits to Cincinnati, my nephew took me to the Ohio Book store downtown in Cincinnati (Acres of Books went out of business some years ago). I bought about $100 worth of books including a copy of RECIPES REMEMBERED by Fern Storer.  We packed the box of books up and my nephew mailed them to my home—to save me the trouble of packing them in a suitcase.  Well, the box never made it to California. A single book I had read on the flight TO Cincinnati and had a return address label inside surfaced and was sent to me by the Post Office in Bell, California. I agonized over losing that box for months afterwards.

A year or two later I was back in Cincinnati and returned to the  Ohio Book Store; I told my tale of woe to the owner of the book store who remarked “You know, we ship orders all the time—we can mail your books to you for the cost of postage. So, when I had found a couple of armloads of cookbooks that day, I gave them to the owner to send to me. They weighed my books to determine the cost of shipping at book rate. My books were waiting for me when I got back home.

I didn’t find another copy of RECIPES REMEMBERED—but one day began searching for it online – and not only did I find a copy – I found one that is autographed!

Thank you, Fern Storer, wherever you are.

I like junior league cookbooks from different states –they are almost always better than most cookbooks—but when it comes to finding a recipe that is “local” the two books I turn to first are Fern Storer’s RECIPES REMEMBERED and Mary Anna DuSablon’s Cincinnati Recipe Treasury. Granted, my home town has a great deal more to offer than cookbooks—but the ones listed are those in my own collection.

Special Thanks to Howard Brinkdoepke for clarifying the names and locations of some of my Cincinnati memories. Howard became a penpal when I wrote Dinner in the Diner including the Twin Trolley Restaurant that used to be in South Fairmount.

–Sandra Lee Smith



As I have said before, book titles cannot be copyrighted – that is why you might find half a dozen different cookbooks with the same title. I was reminded of this a few days while writing a review of a cookbook titled CLASSIC CHINESE COOKING. (I have known this ever since I started writing in the early 1960s but now I asked myself why do I know this and has it been changed?  So, I asked Google and found this response:

“Generally, No.” You cannot copyright a book title.  The U.S. Copyright Office does not typically allow someone to copyright a book title because titles are not considered intellectual property but are only “short slogans,” which are not eligible to be copyrighted.  The Copyright Office doesn’t want titles to be restricted to one book; there may be other works in which the title may be equally usable and appropriate. ..”  I see examples of this multi-titles in the world of cookbooks quite often.

I’m now looking at a few cookbooks titled THE FARMER’S WIFE COOK BOOK and one of the interesting aspects of this cookbook title is that one of them was published in Great Britain while another closer to home was published by a magazine called The Farmer’s Wife, edited by Martha Engstrom. Are there more? I wondered.

I turned my attention to and discovered quite a collection of Farmer’s Wife cookbooks.  Apparently, the Farmer’s Wife magazine is one of the earliest of periodicals to use this title.

According to Google “The Farmer’s Wife (magazine) was first published in 1893, and had a circulation of 3,000 a month. In 1897, the Webb Publishing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota bought this magazine, and from that point they raised the circulation rate through the early 20th century decades to 1,100,000 a year. In mid-1939 The Farmer’s Wife was bought by Farm Journal, and became a subsection in the back of this magazine.

The connection to Farm Journal gave me a jolt—I have many of the Farm Journal Cookbooks. Penpal Penny in Oklahoma and I began collecting the Farm Journal cookbooks back in the 1970s and loved the recipes.  They were always our “go to” recipe source before anything else. Whenever I found an extra copy of one of the Farm Journal cookbooks, I’d buy it to give to a family member or a friend.

Well, I would have sworn I had more than two of the Farmer’s Wife Cookbooks but so far I have only found two of them. And the slew of them I have discovered on only adds to the mystery—how can so many different books have the same affiliation to the Farmer’s Wife Magazine?

One is The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook containing over 400 blue-ribbon recipes, compiled by editor Martha Ergstrom and published in 1996. The best explanation of the cookbook can be found in the introduction, Welcome to the Farm Kitchen, which reads, “The recipes I the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook are true farm recipes. They originated in country kitchens and were submitted by readers to The Farmer’s Wife, a monthly magazine published from 1893 to 1939 by Webb Publishing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota. Many of these recipes are almost a century old, offering a step back in time to another era of cooking. They have all been updated for the modern kitchen to produce similar results today as they did in Grandma’s kitchen.

Many of the recipes are downright delicious…such as the Swedish Meatballs, the pies and cakes…Some are chock full of nostalgia, reviving memories of Grandma’s special cooking. Others are quaint, offering a window to look back at a long ago style of North American farm country cookery that is largely forgotten today.”  (Actually, I don’t think it IS forgotten – the responses I get whenever I write about some of these cookbooks is prove enough that many people are still interested in the recipes—and the follow-up cookbooks are a strong indicator that the books are greatly welcomed).

“Other than spices and such, the recipes call for the homegrown ingredients that were typically raised and produced on American farms during this era. Milk and cream, both sweet and sour, butter, chicken and eggs, cured meats, variety meats (the vernacular for organs such as the heart and liver), and fresh and home-canned fruits and vegetables were considered staples. The recipes were created to give equally satisfying results using either fresh or preserved ingredients….”

Martha Engrstrom goes on to say that “in reviewing issues from almost forty years of the Farmer’s Wife [magazine] I was struck by the number of feature articles and fictional works that touched on the significance of ‘community’. The desire or need for farm families to participant in both social events and common work-related activities, within the greater community, was an everyday embracing theme.

The purpose or focus of such gatherings varied but common  to all was food. Whether it was a church circle or some other women’s society, the 4-H club or the crews of men who aided neighbors in raising barns or threshing grain, a meal to be shared by all participants was considered central to the event or activity itself.”

Ms. Engrstrom’s last two paragraphs struck another chord. For over forty years, one of my penpals has been a “farmer’s wife” in Oregon—although this farmer also worked in a paper mill for many years and in more recent years they have downsized considerably on the amount of crops that are raised. There is enough for my friend to can virtually all fruits and vegetables grown on their property to last for a year, plus to have plenty of extra fruit and vegetables to share with friends and family. But last year, I visited them in October and participated in picking apples from their half-dozen orchard of apples, and the family all gathered one Saturday to make gallons and gallons of apple cider. I contributed by making Cincinnati chili for the family dinner. In addition, my girlfriend and I made quarts and quarts of V-8 juice.  There was still a lot of tomatoes leftover and since she didn’t want to can any more for herself, I suggested buying a box of quart jars (available everywhere in Oregon!) and us making 12 jars of V-8 juice for myself – they could bring mine to me when they made their annual pilgrimage south to Southern California and from here to a place in Arizona where a lot of snowbirds spend the winters. And so we did, and I was thrilled to receive my case of V-8 juice when they arrived in late December.  This was a perfect example of a farmer’s wife using virtually everything needed to grow many fruits and vegetables (and they have blackberries growing wild along the perimeter of the property! Be still my heart!)

Years ago, before retiring, they also grew a mint crop annually, that grew easily with little attention and then would be taken to a place where the mint was processed. I STILL have a little bottle of mint oil from their property).  My experience with seeing how the family gathered and everyone spent hours cutting and forcing apples into a machine that extracted the juice was a small scale experience of how small town farmers and the neighbors joined forces to preserve the fruits of their labors.

Getting back to the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook, each chapter contains old-time photographs of kitchens, cooks, and their families – I assume all were taken from the Farmer’s Wife magazine. I simply love the illustrations as much as the recipes. The First Courses and Soups contains an introduction from The Farmer’s Wife.  For readers who are searching for the “old fashioned” way of making things, this book is for you. I don’t know how often women have asked me how on earth I ever found the time to make homemade soups—soups! One of the easiest things to make and it can be made with some leftover meat or vegetables, if you have them on hand. I love making turkey rice soup with a turkey carcass, or ham and bean soup with a leftover ham bone. Granted, if you are making bean soup, you will get a much better soup by letting the dry beans soak overnight, then drain and rinse them off and put into the pot with fresh clean cold water.  There is a recipe for Bean Chowder on page 13 of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook. There are also recipes for Vegetable soup, Minestrone, and Beef Stock that can be converted into many different dishes. (if you have the time to do it, cook a turkey carcass in water until all the meat falls off the bones, then strain it – remove as much meat as you can find and toss the rest. I like to put any kind of beef or poultry stock in gallon size pickle jars. When it is cold, transfer the stock to 2-quart Gladlock plastic containers and freeze them. At this point, I like to transfer the frozen stock “bricks” to ziplock freezer bags and label them with a sharpee pen. The frozen soup bricks stack nicely in the freezer).

The next chapter in the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook is Cream soups – and Cream of Tomato Soup does not contain canned tomato soup but it does contain 2 cups of home canned tomatoes! Yum!

A chapter on Breads provides recipes for Boston Brown Bread, Peanut Butter Bread, Corn Bread and Spoon Bread and Quick Nut Bread. There are also muffins, biscuits  and popover recipes,  recipes for White Bread and Dinner Rolls, oatmeal bread – and one I am looking forward to trying—Swedish Limpa Rye Bread. There are also instructions for home bakers.

Under a chapter for meats you will find a recipe for Swiss Steak and another for City Chicken – I learned how to make Swiss Steak from my mother-in-law who was from West Virginia, and my mother sometimes made City Chicken which was small chunks of veal and/or boneless pork that were floured and browned and then put on skewers and cooked in a small amount of oil. I think it was a way of making a dinner for a family of seven using very little meat. As kids, my siblings and I loved City Chicken. Who even knows what it is, today?

Under ground meat there are recipes for Baby Porcupines, Swedish Meatballs and Hamburger Royal. There is also a chapter for making sauces (from scratch! Not from a little packet of seasoning mix – which, incidentally, have doubled in price in recent months…this is a good time to learn how to make your own sauces!

Under the chapter Titled “Chicken” you find first a recipe for roasting chicken (possibly one of the easiest entrees you can make and serve for a family meal or for company – followed by a recipe for dressing and another for making a boiled chicken, chicken pie, creamed chicken, chicken mousse or chicken loaf—proving that many recipes can be made from a boiled chicken. These and many other topics are included in The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook. There are recipes for using eggs to make suppers, cheese suppers and genuine New England Dishes—along with many recipes for low-income families, bearing in mind that the Farmer’s Wife magazine was being published throughout the war years of World War I and world War II – as well as the Great Depression. The only other place I have seen so many frugal recipes was in a Depression Era cookbook and some of my old Sunset cookbooks.

There are many recipes for making your own salad dressings (was there any other way, back in the day?) which include Sweet Cream dressing and Cooked or Boiled Dressing. There are recipes for vegetable salads, potato salad and slaws. Fruit Salads includes the famous Waldorf Salad, still popular today, decades later.  There are gelatin salads and gelatin desserts (and I am forever thankful no one called them congealed salads, which has such a dismal connotation in my mind). There are Whips and Puddings, steamed puddings and custard recipes, many old and perhaps somewhat forgotten except that many of us are old enough to remember the terms and names. Tapioca pudding! My favorite then and my favorite now!  There are Date or Fruit  Torte and Blitz Torte (I think my mother had this recipe and I thought it was a misspelling).

I found an interesting article about a woman who sold fruitcake starting out with making the cakes and taking them to a local grocery store to sell—they didn’t all sell out the first year but the word got around until her cakes were in great demand—mind you, this was in 1936 and the creator, a Mrs. Theresa Fort, continued making and baking her fruitcakes until she and her husband bought a big old fashioned house and opened up a tea room. She served Sunday dinners and parties but continued to make fruitcakes that were a huge success. She didn’t have an electric mixer so all the cakes were mixed by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. The fruitcake recipe that created a cottage business isn’t included in the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook –but I have shared some favorite cookbook recipes with you in the past. What is included is a recipe for a fruit cobbler, another for a Apple Roly-Poly (who knows what that is anymore?) and another for Brown Betty.

There are candy and cake recipes—no cake mix starts out with “1 cake mix” but there are old-time favorite cake recipes such as Applesauce Cake, Tomato Soup Cake with Cream Cheese frosting that does call for a can of condensed tomato soup, Nectar Raisin Cake and Orange Cake, an Angel Food Cake recipe that calls for 1 cup of egg whites (approximately 12 eggs) and Hot Milk Sponge Cake—plus some others you may want to rediscover. The book does contain a fruitcake recipe but no indication is given that it is the same fruitcake that made Mrs. Fort famous back in the 1930s.

There are cookies and pie recipes and homemade doughnuts—and an interesting chapter on Jellies, Conserves and Jams that I will have to explore more, being a jelly-and-jam maker myself. Included is an article published in 1928 in Farmer’s Wife Magazine, titled “Canning For the Fair” which includes an illustration of Sure-Jell pectin mix that was priced at 13 cents.  (I recently priced powdered pectin—the popular brands are over $3.50 for a single box.  There is also a chapter  on making Pickles and Relishes.

This Farmer’s Wife Cookbook originally sold for $9.95. (The price is printed on the back of the cover).

I am finding The Best of the Farmer’s Wife Cookbook by Kari Cornell & Melinda Keefe (published in 2011), The Farmer’s Wife Harvest Cookbook by Lela Norgi, The Farmer’s Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook, the Farmer’s Wife Cookie Cookbook, also by Lela Norgi and even a Farmer’s Wife Slow Cooker Cookbook although to the best of my knowledge, slow cookers were not in existence back in the days of the Farmer’s Wife magazine!  I’ll leave it to someone else to unravel this plethora of Farmer’s Wife cookbook authors.   **

The second Farmer’s Wife cookbook in my collection does not appear in any of the lists I have consulted. This is a British version of farmer’s wives cookbook which contains a preface written by the foremost cookbook author in Great Britain, Marguerite Patten, about whom I have written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and then again for my blog in February, 2011.

This Farmer’s Wife Cook Book was the end result of a competition for country farmers’ wives , for which Marguerite Patten was one of the judges.

She writes, “…All the recipes have been written by farmers’ wives, and selected from over 1000 recipes sent in from all over the country, specially for this promotion.

The excellent recipes came almost literally from John O’Groats to Land’s End and from just about every type of farm and farming land in the country….”

Marguerite says “We judges based our selection on recipes that produced original, practical and delicious dishes, which were also economical and not too difficult to make.  I was one of the judges of this competition and it was a very difficult task to test so many excellent recipes and to select the winners….”

Marguerite notes that “farm cooking in this country has always been exceptionally good, possibly for two main reasons: first, farmers’ wives are usually very busy people; they have little time for shopping, so make use of the ingredients readily available; they need skill and creative ability to turn them into unusual and appetizing meals; secondly, British farmers’ wives have access to some of the best natural produce in the world—high quality milk, cream, eggs, poultry, bacon, etc., so their meals are  nourishing as well as interesting…”

She adds that although the recipes were developed by country women, they are equally suitable for those of us who live in towns and cities.

What follows is a most appetizing mouth-watering collection of recipes with the most unusual twist to the winning dishes – although the names of the winning farmers’ wives are list alongside the recipes—you won’t find a single photograph of these farmers wives – instead, charmingly, delightfully, photographs of their homes is provided. In over 40 years of collecting cookbooks with emphasis on “regional” recipes – whether they are regional to Great Britain or the USA –this is a first for me. It makes me want to pack up and go visit Great Britain, once and for all!

This copy of Farmer’s Wife Cookbook must have been sent to me by my penpal, Betsy, who has been to Great Britain many times. Once when I was visiting her in Michigan, her British penpal came to visit too and we had a delightful time together.

I haven’t been able to find a web listing for the Farmer’s Wife Cook Book, United Kingdom style – but it is such a luscious cookbook, it should be added to your Bucket list as something to search for.   From Farmhouse Pancakes to Bedfordshire Brochettes, from Fluffy Eggs to Cheesy Potato Scones (Be still my heart!) the recipes will tempt and astound you. Readers on the other side of the pond might find the book a little easier to find. I finally found a copyright date of  1973. This is a slim hardcover cookbook subtitled “Country Recipes from Farmers’ Wives”

I know there are other Farmer’s Wife cookbooks “out there” – you may want to search for them to add to your collection!

Happy cooking!




The concept may have originated with Duncan Hines, but Jane and Michael Stern have forged a career out of traveling throughout the country and then compiling cookbooks about the foods they have tasted while traveling hither and yon.  And I suspect, being a writer myself, that some of the non-cookbooks written by the Sterns were offshoots of their travels and research into the cookbooks they have been writing for more than a few years now. I know that when I am researching one thing, others pop up and you fish around for some paper and pen or pencil to jot down other ideas that surface. Some of the books appear to be a nod towards favorite people or topics.

In 2003, I reviewed a beautiful Cookbook titled THE LOUIE’S BACKYARD COOKBOOK” by Jane and Michael Stern, with recipes by Doug Shook. This compilation at the time of publication in January, 2003, was the latest in a series from Rutledge Hill Press of Nashville, Tennessee, celebrating America’s best regional restaurants.  Louie’s Backyard is a restaurant, located in Key West, Florida. While I lived in North Miami Beach, Florida, for three years, I’m sorry to say I never made it to Key West. Louie’s Backyard Cookbook makes me yearn to go.

That said, a number of other cookbooks, well-compiled with beautiful dust jackets have been created by the Sterns. These include:

*THE BLUE WILLOW INN COOKBOOK/Voted Best Small-Restaurant in the South by Southern Living Readers, published in 2002;

*THE DURGIN-PARK COOKBOOK/Classic Yankee Cooking in the shadow of Faneuil Hall, also published in 2002;

*FAMOUS DUTCH KITCHEN RESTAURANT COOKBOOK/Family Style Diner Delights from the Heart of Pennsylvania, published in 2004;

*COOKING IN THE LOWCOUNTRY FROM THE OLD POST OFFICE RESTAURANT/Spanish Moss, Warm Carolina Nights and Fabulous Southern     Food, also published in 2004;

*SOUTHERN COUNTRY COOKING FROM THE LOVELESS CAFÉ/Fried Chicken, Hams, and Jams from Nashville’s Favorite Café, published in 2005;

(Asterisk denotes the cookbooks in this series that I have.   But to get a better picture of what Jane and Michael Stern were writing before they latched onto the concept of the series named “A Roadfood Cookbook, Celebrating America’s Best Regional Restaurants” we have to go back in time.  In my collection, I have the books preceded with an asterisk. To date, this is the list of literary accomplishments achieved by the Sterns, possibly incomplete. Mostly, I searched on Google for titles I didn’t have, checked for titles in the ones I do have, and then ended up in ordering half a dozen more.  The books I ordered should be coming in the mail anyday now.

Here is a list of books written by Jane and Michael Stern:

TRUCKER: A PORTRAIT OF THE LAST AMERICAN COWBOY, 1975 Jane Stern only. One critic wrote: “like many early 70′s books on culture of the USA, it was written with heavy realism with nothing hidden-no gloss. The tone is reverent but lays out all the harsh realities of truckin’, great photos, great poetry, almost punk. 70′s graphics set the tone to this gritty ode to the “last American cowboy”. a REAL slice of American pie”.

ROADFOOD, 1977, 8th edition in 2011,Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster

AMAZING AMERICA, 1978 – out of print (and hard to find), described as: Unusual, interesting, and extraordinary sights, events, and attractions throughout the United States, ranging from the Campbell Museum in Camden, New Jersey, to the Calaveras Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp, California.

AUTO ADS, 1978

DOUGLAS SIRK, 1978, Michael Stern only (Sirk was a film director who was born in Germany to Danish parents, raised in Denmark but moved to Germany when he was a teenager. He started his film career in 1922 but left Germany in 1937 because of his political leanings and his Jewish wife. He made numerous films, including Magnificent Obsession in 1954 and All That Heaven Allows, in 1955)

HORROR HOLIDAY/Secrets of Vacation Survival, 1981



ELVIS WORLD, 1987 – Has been described as a vast universe defined by all that Elvis stands for: the music, of course, and the movies, the life and the legend, but also the cascade of material things he collected and consumed (from pink cadillacs and the cheeseburgers to diamond rings and Graceland), the glitter and the mammoth success (one billion records sold, more than anyone else in history starting with its four page-gate fold title page, this book is bursting with rare photographs, with wonderful Elvis memorabilia (1950s fans magazines: “Elvis – Hero or Heel?”  Elvis wallets, Elvis handkerchiefs, Elvis bedroom slippers with the Elvis with the Elvis phenomenon as it exists today. Elvis Presley has become an American symbol as recognizable as the American flag. He is a landmark in almost everyone’s life, and his image continues to mesmerize. Elvis has transcended his previous status as merely the most popular entertainer in history, and “Elvis world” explains and revels in this phenomenon. With affection and wit – and a touch of irreverence – the Sterns guide us through Elvis world, showing us an Elvis we’ve never seen before. –This text refers to an alternate hardcover edition.

*A TASTE OF AMERICA, published in 1988

STERNS GUILD TO DISNEY COLLECTIBLES VOLUME 1 by Michael Stern,  published in 1988




*AMERICAN GOURMET, published in 1991



STERNS GUILD TO DISNEY COLLECTIBLES VOLUME 3 by Michael Stern,  published in 1995

*EAT YOUR WAY ACROSS THE U.S.A. published in 1997 (My favorite Cincinnati eatery, Camp Washington Chili, is featured in this book)

THE BEATLES, A REFERENCE & VALUE GUIDE, Barbara Crawford & Michael Stern, 1998




*UP A COUNTRY LANE, BY EVELYN BIRKBY, JANE AND MICHAEL STERN 2000 (This title came to my attention when I was writing about old time radio programs, WHEN RADIO WAS KING – Don’t touch that Dial” (June, 2009)

*BLUE PLATE SPECIALS AND BLUE RIBBON CHEFS: THE HEART AND SOUL OF AMERICA’S GREAT ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS, 2001 (does not have the logo of “a Roadfood Cookbook Celebrating America’s Best Regional Restaurants”- it appears that the logo was adopted and appears for the first time on the Blue Willow Inn Cookbook-sls)

*THE BLUE WILLOW INN COOKBOOK/Voted Best Small-Restaurant in the South by Southern Living Readers, published in 2002;

*THE DURGIN-PARK COOKBOOK/Classic Yankee Cooking in the shadow of Faneuil Hall, also published in 2002;



*FAMOUS DUTCH KITCHEN RESTAURANT COOKBOOK/Family Style Diner Delights from the Heart of Pennsylvania, published in 2004;

*COOKING IN THE LOWCOUNTRY FROM THE OLD POST OFFICE RESTAURANT/Spanish Moss, Warm Carolina Nights and Fabulous Southern     Food, also published in 2004;


*SOUTHERN COUNTRY COOKING FROM THE LOVELESS CAFÉ/Fried Chicken, Hams, and Jams from Nashville’s Favorite Café,  also published in 2005;

FRIENDLY RELATIONS, a novel, published in 2005

*TWO FOR THE ROAD/Our Love Affair with American Food, published in 2006





Obviously, not every book compiled by the Sterns is a cookbook! For those who like to compile a complete bibliography of favorite authors, this should give you something to work with. I counted 39 titles. One of the articles I read in Google lists more than 40 books.

Jane and Michael Stern, who are both baby boomers born in 1946, got their foot in the door by writing books about travel and food (after college graduation, neither one could find employment in the fields they had majored in).

They may be best known for their “Roadfood” books, website and magazine columns, such as the now defunct GOURMET MAGAZINE, for which they were staff writers for 18 years. The Sterns have won many awards, including three James Beard awards and the James Beard Perrier-Jouet Award for lifetime achievement. They were inducted into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, in 1992. (When I first began delving into their titles, my first impression was that my younger brother Bill, also born in 1946, would appreciate the Sterns’ early books more than I, being a baby boomer himself. But the deeper I delved, the more fascinated I became.

The Sterns met as graduate students in art at Yale University, married in 1970 – and much to my surprise, divorced in 2008. While they now live in different cities, they continue to write and travel as a team, despite the divorce.  The Lexicon of Real American Food was published in 2011, the same year that Jane published CONFESSIONS OF A TAROT READER, based on her long-standing (but little known) career as a tarot card reader. And, although my blog articles focus primarily on cooking, cookbooks, recipes and favorite cookbook authors—I find myself intrigued by the titles of the Sterns collective or individual non-cookbook accomplishments.  It’s almost like thinking you have known somebody for a long time and suddenly discover there are layers of other interests, like the layers to an onion.

Normally, I would give you ordering information on various cookbooks—but there are too many titles to do this. I suggest, if you are interested in one of these titles, that you visit or (many of their cookbooks can be purchased very reasonably); I obtained a lot of my information on the Sterns’ books from these websites and Google. or, read my post Louie’s Backyard Cookbook, posted in June, 2012 on this blog for a sample of their  “Roadfood”  series.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith








A Memphis community cookbook arrived in yesterday’s mail and had me wondering just how many Memphis cookbooks did I have? Well, not as many as I originally thought – I have two copies of the Memphis in May International Festival Cookbook which lays claim to being the Official Cookbook of the Memphis in May International Festival, Volume One, published in 1989. Are there more Memphis in May International Festival cookbooks? I wondered.  As in a Volume 2 or Volume 3?  I have been unable to find any trace of additional volumes on Google. Perhaps tagging it Volume One was a bit over ambitious on somebody’s part.

And then I discovered that my oldest Memphis Cookbook published by the Junior League of Memphis in 1976 (and a gift from my penpal, Penny, in Oklahoma)—was not the oldest edition, not by a long shot – THIS Junior League cookbook was first published in September of 1952! Between that first edition published in 1952 and republished in 1976, there were sixteen editions resulting in the publication of 194,000 copies!

17th through 20th editions were published between 1977 and 1988 and I am assuming that the newly designed cover was first created for the 1977  cookbook and what I have is a copy of the 20th edition published in 1988. This edition also has a seal proclaiming it to be the Official City of Memphis Cookbook.  Out of curiosity, I checked a few recipes in both of my copies to determine whether or not the recipes are the same. They are.

In 1970, the Junior League of Memphis published a new cookbook, PARTY POTPOURRI, which is a compilation of parties and menus.  A guide such as this is especially handy when you are hosting some kind of party and don’t know where to begin.  This cookbook offers breakfasts, brunches and coffees recipes, luncheons and teas, receptions, children’s parties, informal entertaining and even elegant entertaining. I don’t know if Party Potpourri was published more than the two editions listed in my copy published in 1971. Google was not much help other than providing me with the information that this cookbook contains over 500 recipes.

Then I also discovered that my copy of “A MAN’S TASTE” published in 1980—is also a creation of the Junior League of Memphis.  In the introduction, the Junior Leaguers comment that 1980 marked the 28th anniversary of their first publication (the Memphis Cookbook first published in 1952, which had since sold over 200,000 copies and was still going strong). They write that Party Potpourri has successfully sold over 130,000 copies.

A MAN’S TASTE is their third cookbook. They say they couldn’t bring themselves to call this one SON OF MEMPHIS COOKBOOK, feeling it would sound derivative—and they didn’t want to deny this unusual collection of men’s recipes the chance to seek its own special identity in the world of cookbooks.

Still, they write, “Son of Memphis Cook Book” would not be an inappropriate title. In the pages of A MAN’S TASTE are the names of many rightful sons and  heirs, as well as nephews, cousins, brothers and their friends—of the ladies who contributed to their first collection of Southern recipes back in 1952. The culinary talents displayed in A MAN’S TASTE did not spring from dormitory hot plates, army field kitchens, scout camps and hunting lodges alone.  “A mother’s hand may be detected here and there, light though it may be”, they write.

A MAN’S TASTE was meant to be much more than a collection of men’s recipes and not a mere sequel to what has gone before.  This was intended to be a book about men cooking, what they do and how they feel in the kitchen, and the Junior League of Memphis succeeded in this endeavor, although you will get the feeling that a cookbook by and for men was simply before its time, for don’t we see a bushel basket full of male chefs in abundance on the cooking shows on the Food Network lo these three decades later? It’s the female chefs who tend to be scarce on these television shows, but in the Unofficial Foreword, the Junior Leaguers write “We have trouble remembering exactly what it was that started people thinking about putting out a men’s cookbook.  It had something to do with the notion that there is something funny about men’s cooking, and something to do with the notion that the Junior League House-husbands (a secret society of indeterminate membership with its own handshake and heavy recurring annual dues) could make an off-beat contribution to the distinguished cookbook publishing tradition of the Memphis Junior League. The underlying premise was, as near as we can recall, that the League’s coffers might be modestly enriched through the sale of a recipe book that was, if nothing else, out of the ordinary. ..”

And out of the ordinary it was. Some recipes had to be left out—Pigeon Drop Soup and Roast Rack of Armadillo, for example, were omitted for lack of essential raw materials to test them Coral Snake Stew was abandoned for want of a single soul who would volunteer to try it first (and the contributor himself could not be found) But be not dismayed or reluctant to find a copy of A MAN’S TASTE. Weird recipes aside, there are plenty of yummy recipes for man (and woman) alike. Easily the kind of cookbook to read in bed with a packet of post-its on hand to mark your favorite recipes-to-try.

STIRRING RECIPES FROM MEMPHIS HEART & SOUL cookbook was also the work of the Junior League of Memphis.   This larger than life cookbook published in 1992 has a seal proclaiming it the National Winner of the Tabasco Cookbook awards for 1993.

The Memphis Cookbook published in 1970 is available on starting at $2.25 for a pre-owned copy. has the Heart & Soul cookbook starting at $1.51 for a pre-owned copy. They also have the revised copy of the Memphis cookbook (with the blue cover) starting at $2.36 for a pre-owned copy.

The original Memphis Cookbook can be yours from starting at $2.36 for a pre-owned copy.  Many of these cookbooks are also available new and often for very reasonable prices.  I often find I have to shop around to see what is the best price for the best available condition. Other times (and I have complained about this before) – ordinary cookbooks such as these are priced by private vendors at hugely inflated prices.  Every so often someone writes to me and asks how much I think such-and-such a cookbook is worth; my answer always is – it’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay.

My final mention is that the 1952 edition of The Memphis Cookbook contained poetry and essays similar to what I collected and posted as the Kitchen Poets. Much love and attention to detail went into the making of that first Memphis Cookbook. Much love and attention to detail went into the making of A Man’s Taste and Stirring Recipes as well.

Reviewed by Sandra Lee Smith


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME?  A lot when you are coming up with the title for a community cookbook!   I love a clever name, something that makes the title stand out and makes you want to learn more about it.  This is exactly what I thought when I saw

PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE by the Junior League of DeKalb County, Georgia  - or

COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist  Women –    or -

SUGAR SNIPS & ASPARAGUS TIPS, by the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.

Intriguing titles, aren’t they? Do you want to learn more? I hope so!

First in this trilogy of community cookbooks is PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE subtitled Dining in Atlanta Style, compiled by the Junior League of DeKalb County, in Georgia, and first published in 1979. By the time the sixth edition was published in 1991, over a hundred thousand copies of Puttin’ On the Peach Tree were sold.

In the Introduction, the Junior Leaguers write, “Our forebearers  brought to this  country a knowledge of sensible, life sustaining food. They combined that knowledge with the bounty from the Georgia soil and called it “Southern Cooking”.

The native Indians added appreciation of the gifts of woods and waters.

Country folks taught us that good food shared with good friends is reason enough for a celebration.

Shy mountain women proved to us that food speaks clearly of love when the tongue cannot.

City sophisticates helped us find creative expression in cooking for the sheer fun of it… Elsewhere, they write,

“Wherever you cook. There’s a phrase for it:
In the city, it’s putting on the ritz,

In the country, it’s puttin’ on the dog.

In some places in between, it’s puttin’ on your best bib and tucker

and in Atlanta, it’s PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE!

It speaks of entertaining people you care about and doing it well.  It’s Dining In, Atlanta Style”

The Junior Leaguers who compiled this oh-so-southern- cookbook did a fine job; they must have been enormously gratified that this cookbook—their project—has done so well—and no wonder!

Starting with Appetizers and Beverages, I found recipes I have not seen elsewhere – recipes such as Antipasto Spread and Artichoke Spread, Homestyle “Boursin” and Beer Cheese Dip, Hot Cheese Puffs and Crab Meat Hot Dip, as well as unusual recipes such as Fried Gyoza (Pot Stickers), which reflects on how much this country has broadened in its culinary endeavors, with recipes from other countries wending their way into community cookbooks!

In the chapter for SOUPS you will find a Puree of Asparagus Soup (which I look forward to trying), as well as a Cauliflower Ham chowder, Clam Bisque, and a New England Style Clam Chowder that I most definitely will make.  There is an unusual recipe for Chicken Soup with Meatballs that really sounds interesting and a Hangover Soup that also sounds like fun (hangover or no) and a Vegetable Soup made with Ground Beef…these and other recipes are sure to whet  your appetite.

In addition to many southern favorites, you can broaden your horizons with an inclusion of Cold Hungarian Tomato Soup, Stiriai Meteit (noodle pudding), Bogracs Guiyas (Kettle Goulash) and Erdelyi Zsivanpecsenye which translates to Bandit’s Meat—plus a recipe for Pork Paprikash which perhaps needs no translation. I was delighted to also find a recipe for Ron Cohn’s Palacsinta, a kind of crepe that I have written about before on this blog. My siblings and cousins and I grew up on Palacsinta, which we referred to ignominiously as “German Pancakes” as we spread them with jam and rolled up, to eat on our way back to school after having lunch at Grandma’s. has copies of this cookbook starting at one cent and going up to 3.63 for pre-owned copies. New copies are available starting at 6.50. has hard-bound pre-owned copies for 99c!  I think the 1979 edition may have originally been published in a hard bound copy.  **

Next, COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist Women is a thick spiral bound cookbook first published in April, 1993, with additional copies being published a few months later, in August, 1993 and a third printing taking place in July, 1994.

In the Introduction, we are asked “Who are these women that took on such a challenging task? The names and faces have changed throughout the years, but they are the ones who have helped     pay or paid the preacher’s salary, light bills, painting bills, and maintenance and repair bills: replaced furniture, cleaned the church, provided altar flowers, visited the sick and poor, provided food trays, clothed the needy, supported the Methodist Orphanage, and countless other things!

How did they accomplish so many things? Traditionally, these women have held a variety of fund raisers, such as turkey dinners, bazaars, flea markets, silent auctions, homes tours and others to help support the church, community, individuals, missions, and outreach ministries. Nothing changes with the publication of this cookbook – their work continues!

From Collard Greens, Watermelons and “Miss” Charlotte’s Pie we present to you a collection of recipes from parishioners, friends, former members, family members and other generations of the Swansboro United Methodist Church.

Each tested recipe has been carefully edited in an effort to clarify both ingredients and instructions…”  The church members also shared with us recipes from three earlier cookbooks published by the United Methodist Church in 1968, 1977, and 1985…”

I haven’t taken the time to count all the recipes in “Collard Greens, et al” but at a guess, I’d say there must be over four hundred.

Look for Lemon Cake Pudding, as this is something I was making years ago and can vouch for.  Mexican Lasagna is another. If you have the patience for it, making Watermelon Cookies is a good project to do with children (or in my case, grandchildren) – they are sure to be a hit at any party. Another easy one with only four ingredients is Almond or Pecan Roca. “Miss” Charlotte’s Strawberry Glaze Pie is certainly a wonderful dessert to surprise dinner guests with. Speaking of “Miss” Charlotte, there is a fascinating biography on her to be found on page 3. “Miss” Charlotte, who was in the first graduating class at Duke University in 1925 and married Alton Fields in 1933.

“Miss Charlotte’s” life reads like something Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings or Lee Smith might have created as a character in one of their books. I believe I found the grave sites for both “Miss” Charlotte and her husband, Alton, by doing a Google search. If my calculation is correct, they were married for 65 years and she lived 9 years after him.

What delights and charms me most about COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE is the dedication to the people of Swansboro United Methodist Women while composing a cookbook that is chock-full of wonderful recipes and unexpected newsy tidbits such as the history of newspapers in the area.

COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist Women is available on starting a $2.95 for a hard bound copy. It is also available on starting at $2.67 for a pre owned copy.

*I want to point out that sometimes a private vendor has a new copy of a book priced at the most scandalous ridiculous prices. Whenever I see prices such as these, I totally ignore them. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in spending hundreds of dollars on a single book when a perfectly good pre-owned copy, often in like-new condition, can be had for far less.  Just letting you know – if I don’t post a NEW price on a book, it’s because the new prices are ridiculous.

The third cookbook I want to share with you today is “SUGAR SNIPS & ASPARAGUS TIPS” compiled by the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago and published in 1991. The organization alone is enough to pique anyone’s interest, including mine and I was not disappointed. In 1911, the Chicago Milk Commission joined with the Children’s Hospital Society to combat the city’s spiraling infant mortality rate. The new organization was named the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago and its mission was to provide well baby care and to instruct mothers how to feed and care for their infants…today the Infant Welfare Society operates pediatric, dental and gynecological clinics and a Home Based Visiting Program…in Chicago. The services continue to expand every year as does the demand for high quality preventive and affordable health care.

I can’t help but wonder how many young lives might have been saved if, back in 1911, programs like the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago had been available in hundreds of other cities throughout the U.S.A.  One of the claims of the Infant Welfare Society is that no one is denied care because of inability to pay.  The Woman’s Auxiliary, composed of 34 centers and a membership of more than 1200 volunteers, also offers a Teen Clinic to meet the increasing needs of adolescent boys and girls for medical care, health information and psychological counseling. Other services include laboratory screening and testing, pediatric, cardiology, vision and hearing screen, nutrition counseling and a learning-through-play program.

The photography for Sugar Snips & Asparagus Tips was provided by Laurie Rubin Photography and is spectacular.

The many recipes in Appetizers range from cold appetizers, spreads and dips to hot appetizers, dips and spreads and include such tantalizing dishes such as Asparagus Canapés, Chutney Party Pinwheels, Sesame Chicken Wings,  and Phyllo Spinach Diamonds, a recipe I used to make and thought would be great to serve again at a party. These and other appetizer recipes will whet your appetite and provide inspiration for your next dinner party or family get-together.

There are soups and salads which include a recipe for Rich Cream of Asparagus Soup and Old Fashioned Oxtail Soup, both recipes I plan to try, but you may also be interested in the Jamaican Pumpkin soup, or Fabulous French Onion Soup. Under Salads there is a recipe for Orange Asparagus Soup, and A B C Salad (Avocado, Bacon & Chicken Salad) and others with ingredients you may be aware of, such as Jicama, but don’t know how to use; Try Jicama, Mango and Papaya with Citrus Dressing. Perhaps one of the most enticing things about a community cookbook is the discovery of foods we might not know about, with recipes that give you an idea of how it can be used.  I have always thought Jicama tasted like a cross between a potato and an apple.  I like the salad dressings of Mock Caesar Dressing, Onion Chutney Dressing and Hazelnut Vinaigrette, just to name a few.

Under the chapter titled Eggs & Pasta, be sure to check out Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Sweet Red Pepper or consider the Spinach and Ricotta Tart (I love anything made with spinach or asparagus!) There is also a recipe for Marbleized Eggs that you might want to try – it only requires two ingredients!  And a cookbook with “Asparagus” in the title wouldn’t be complete without Asparagus Quiche, would it?

These and many, many more recipes from the Woman’s Auxiliary, Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, are just waiting for you to discover them. has the book priced at $12.94 for a new copy, or 35 cents for a pre-owned copy.  On, I discovered numerous pre owned copies for 99c. Take your pick!

What’s in a name? Everything, if you are putting together a fund-raiser cookbook.

Happy Cooking and even happier cookbook collecting!

Sandra Lee Smith




In the past, I have attempted to review several cookbooks in one fell swoop, with the idea that perhaps I can pass along information on some exceptional community cookbooks. There are, unquestionably, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of new cookbooks being published every year; no one can possibly keep up with all of them. What I have been doing in the past few months is putting together some short stacks of cookbooks I feel are too good to get lost in the shuffle. (and no one knows better than I how easily cookbooks can get lost in the shuffle!)

So, with this thought in mind, let me share some of my favorite cookbooks with you and maybe something in this presentation will kindle a spark with other like-minded cookbook collectors (rest assured; if you have more than a few dozen cookbooks, you are a collector). I remember when I had only 300 cookbooks and thought I was hopelessly addicted to cookbooks. That was a long time ago and now I have no idea how many cookbooks are in my collection.

The first book I want to write about is not a community cookbook per se, but it is a nicely spiral bound cookbook by a woman named Linda Burgett. The title of the book is MILD TO WILD Mexican Cookbook/ More than 400 Recipes to delight your imagination and tickle your taste buds. Linda comes by writing a cookbook honestly; her parents, Sharon McFall and father Gene McFall are the authors of BUSY WOMEN’S COOKBOOK, COOKING WITH WILL ROGERS, GET ME OUT OF THE KITCHEN and JUST AROUND THE CURVE COOKBOOK.

Linda lives in New Mexico (a State more and more responsible for producing cookbook authors) with her husband and son. Linda enjoys entertaining and collecting recipes at the many functions she attends. Her husband’s love of spicy Mexican food and her son’s desire for milder versions inspired her to write MILD TO WILD MEXICAN COOKBOOK.

This cookbook kicks off with a Wild Sauce and Kickin’ Ketchup plus a variety of salsa recipes. There are a number of easy to prepare recipes ranging from Green With Envy Salsa to Black Bean Salsa, Aloha Salsa and one of my favorites, Pico de Gallo Salsa, a Restaurant Style Salsa and many hot salsa recipes. There are many other  salsas and dips from which to choose, including a Layered Dip similar to one that has made its way into many American homes since (I believe) the first one I ever saw in print was in a woman’s magazine around 1980—but there is an Avocado Layered Dip that I think would be a good change of pace.

But Mexican food is a great deal more than salsas and dips—I’ve been marking with post-its recipes for chicken enchiladas and chicken fajitas, Spanish Spinach Enchiladas  and easy Cheese Enchiladas. There are over 400 recipes in MILD TO WILD, from tamales to burritos and dozens of mouth-watering recipes in between.

I found MILD TO WILD on, listed at $18.80 for a new copy or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy. It is on for 99c for pre-owned copies. If you like Mexican food, you will love MILD TO WILD Mexican Cookbook **

For sheer attractiveness I’d have to give high marks to PUTTING ON THE GRITS presented by the Junior League of Columbia, South Carolina. The art-deco-ish design of the cover and throughout the book is sure to charm anyone who is partial to the art deco look (Personally, I love it. Whenever I am in Cincinnati, I love visiting the old train depot (now housing several museums) with its 1930s art deco designs). First published in 1985, Putting On the Grits has gone through five printings by 1993 (and perhaps more since then).

From Appetizers ranging from Spinach Cheese Squares to Spicy Chicken Tidbits, from the incredibly easy to prepare Hot Bacon Bits, to Marinated Shrimp, these and many other recipes will whet your appetite. There are a wide variety of soups, salads, breads, vegetables and side dishes from which to ooh and ahh and dash off to the kitchen to try.

I am admittedly partial to southern recipes so a chapter titled Southern Classics certainly caught my eye. Whether it’s Buttermilk Biscuits or Hot Pepper Jelly (to put on the hot buttermilk biscuits!), Shrimp Pie or Crab Cakes, Southern  Baked Grits or Sausage and grits Casserole, Fried Green Tomatoes or Blackberry Jam Cake—you will surely find a southern favorite to add to your culinary repertoire.

Putting On the Grits may be out of print but copies are still available. I couldn’t find a listing on but has over a dozen copies starting at $10.92 and some new copies priced at $29.98. ***

One of my favorite cookbooks to come from the Finger Lakes Region is titled THRU THE GRAPEVINE, and was compiled by the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning, Inc. and was published in 1991.

This is a big thick cookbook which had gone through seven printings as of  February 1994 including a Southern Living Hall of Fame Edition).   Over a thousand recipes were submitted by members of the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning. Inc. The 635 recipes contained in this book were tested and retested for quality, selected and edited for clarity by the Junior League members. Included with the many specially chosen recipes there are illustrations of famous sites such as Bluff Point and Glen Iris Inn, Taughannock Falls and Watkins Glen Gorge—Watkins Glen Gorge!!  I have been keen to return to upstate New York ever since my family visited it when I was 15 years old, and my brother was stationed at an air force base (no longer in existence) in the finger lakes region.

I can’t begin to do this cookbook justice; the sheer volume of recipes is overwhelming. There is something for everyone and you will spend weeks, if not months, working your way through the more than six hundred recipes. has copies priced at $4.89 and up, while  has pre owned copies starting at $5.00.

On this happy note, I will bring this post to a close for tonight. I hope one of these    cookbooks piques your interest. All three are spectacular.

Happy Cooking & happier cookbook collecting!









Perhaps, to some people, they weren’t “arts” at all. To the people who lived and worked in those decades where “conveniences” were far and few in between, things like growing your own herbs or making your own soap simply fell into the vast cauldron of work that had to be done.

About a decade ago, Bob and I embarked on a quest to learn how to do some of those mostly forgotten tasks, such as making our own soap and having our own herb garden.  As you may know, we had been doing a lot of canning for more than ten years—growing and canning (or freezing) our own tomatoes, beans, corn, peaches and other fruits and vegetables. We had a small grape arbor in Arleta, which yielded plenty of grapes from which to make unsweetened grape juice or grape jelly. We also had peach, orange, tangerine, lemon, fig, and olive trees.  Several times we’ve made our own sauerkraut. Bob backed the car into my huge crock one day, so I sauerkraut making was put on a back burner until we could acquire another one—and the replacement crock is far  more superior than the old one had been. If anyone is seriously interested in making your own sauerkraut and obtaining a worthwhile crock, write to me and I will dig out the booklet about the crock. It was rather expensive – however, shipping was free so that was a plus.

My sister’s mother-in-law had given me that first crock, which I deeply regretted  losing. Mostly, I make a lot of jellies and jams, coming up with some of my own original combinations (like Hunka Hunka berry jam and Grammy’s Christmas Jammy that we give to friends and relatives at Christmas). I also make a lot of chutneys, relishes, conserves, fruit butters—and apple sauce.  We had a young apple tree that began producing tart green apples, like a Granny Smith. It was hard to leave that tree behind when we moved to the Antelope Valley, but a few years ago, we bought a new apple tree and last year it began to produce a nice green tart apple, also similar to granny smiths.

More recently, I began experimenting with concocting my own herb/spice mixtures from things like parsley, carrot leaves, celery leaves, tomatoes, chives, cilantro, garlic, and chili peppers, dehydrating and then crushing the mixture so that I could use it as a seasoning substitute for salt. (It started when I began wondering just how much of a vegetable could be dehydrated. I bought carrots with the fern-like green tops still attached to them, and dried them in my dehydrator. It worked!

Bob made grape wine a time or two and one of our friends made a special label for us. (I confess, I was not really very impressed with the home brew. I’d rather stick to White Zinfandel—but Bob drank it.

My Grandpa Schmidt had a small grape arbor and made his own wine. I couldn’t be in our little arbor, picking grapes, without thinking about my grandfather, tending his grape vines. (My brother tells the story about how, after grandpa died, my father, uncle and aunt found some very old bottles of grandpa’s wine in his wine cellar and proceeded to get blitzed on it).  Even though my grandfather passed away when I was only eight years old, when I am in our grape arbor, I feel connected to him.  **

A lot of people would say “why bother?”  Why go to all of that work when you can just go to the local supermarket and buy a jar of applesauce, or jam, or jelly or a bottle of grape juice?  Why, indeed?  As I sit here at the computer, I am asking myself that very question. Why did we do it? Why am I continuing to make jams and jellies, apple sauce and apple butter?

I think part of the answer to this question has to do with soap making. Yes, soap. But not your ordinary scented body-and-bath soap. The soap I am talking about is a brownish- colored heavy duty soap, sort of like bars of Fels Naptha or LAVA. As far back as I can remember, my mother made this lye-based soap once a year. It was used for many different things—scrubbing floors or our bare feet, after we’d been running barefoot all day during the summertime. During World War II and long after, my mother would shave up bits of this soap to do the wash. She never purchased store-bought laundry detergent.  We called it “work soap” and I always thought that just meant it could be used to do a lot of different jobs.

However, a few years ago, I made a curious discovery; years ago, in Cincinnati, there was a heavy-duty soap similar to this called Werk’s Tag Soap.  As a matter of fact, there is even a Werk Road in Cincinnati, where my high school was located. Our “work” soap was actually named after the Werk soap which, I believe, was named after the family that manufactured it.

My mother continued making her work soap even long after she and my father retired at a mobile home park in Largo, Florida. She’d save all bits of grease – bacon grease, chicken fat – until she had enough to make a batch of soap.  When my mother passed away in September, 2000, her “recipe” for making soap went with her. I couldn’t find directions written down anywhere in her recipe box. No one else in the family seems to know exactly how it was made.   For a time, I thought perhaps she learned how to make soap from her mother, my Grandma Beckman – but recently, one of my cousins set me straight. “Grandma Schmidt made that soap, too” he recalled.

I saved cans of grease in the freezer until I thought I had enough, then one day perhaps five or six winters ago, we followed the directions for making lye soap that I had found in a cookbook. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until it separated – one of the common problems with soap-making (generally caused by stirring it too fast—and the faster we stirred, the more it separated) – but even so, we finally poured the finished product into shallow wax-lined box lids (I am not sure what my mother used for molds), and after it had “set”, we cut it into bars. I left it on the front porch for about two weeks to ‘age’.  As a final test, I sent a couple of bars to my brother, Jim—who declared it a close clone to mom’s “work” soap.

Why did I feel obligated to make a batch of this soap?  Because, if I didn’t, the art of making “work soap” would have died with my mother. Since then, I discovered (thanks to the Internet) that soap making is far from really being a “lost art”—but it’s comforting to me, and my siblings, to hold a bar of this soap in our hands, and recall how our mother made it, once a year—and how we used it for everything, from scrubbing floors to washing the dog.  And, I think I will attempt to make another batch but will follow some of the directions that I found on the Internet, next time.

Incidentally, Bob thought it was the best thing in the world for washing really grubby hands after you’d been working under the car or out in the garden.

Then I began experimenting with making my own ‘from scratch’ salad dressings.  I’ve made Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings by the quart, for years – but was interested in a red wine vinaigrette that I could season with my dried-veggie-concoction.  It took several batches to get the vinaigrette just the way I like it—but more importantly, it tastes so much better than commercial dressings.  I feel the same way about Ranch dressing. What you buy in a bottle doesn’t begin to compare with making it with the powdered Hidden Valley Ranch dressing made with buttermilk. Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit by using the powdered mix and I “doctor” the whole thing a bit to suit us.

One day my sister called, saying she was making tacos and didn’t have any taco seasoning mix. Hold on, I told her – I think I have the directions for making that from scratch. I did and I emailed the recipe to her. She says she makes ‘her own’ mix all of the time now.

My grandmother made all of her own noodles—she’d have them drying on the backs of all her wooden kitchen chairs (I haven’t gotten into noodle making just yet – and think I just might have to invest in a pasta machine for this)—but we often make beef jerky, from London Broil when it’s on sale. (A dehydrator is a handy thing to have, and we own two of them—Bob found the second one at a yard sale and bought it for a dollar).

Some of you are undoubtedly too young to remember this, but in the 70s, everyone began making sourdough starter to make their own sourdough bread. We also had yogurt makers to make homemade yogurt. I still have a sourdough starter in my refrigerator.

I discovered a book called “Lost Arts” by Lynn Alley. It’s a guide to making vinegar, curing olives, crafting fresh goat cheese, making simple mustards, baking bread and growing herbs. We had several olive trees in our home in Arleta, and attempted to cure our own olives one year.

As for baking bread – well, I’ve been baking bread most of my adult life and I’ve written about it a few times. When I was a child, my mother made her own bread, two large loaves, twice weekly. She baked the bread in large turkey roaster pans and we took homemade bread so completely for granted that having a sandwich made with Wonder Bread was something of a novelty. When my sons were small, I began experimenting with making various kinds of bread – my favorite being pumpernickel –and I often put the dough, in a large Tupperware container, inside the car to “rise”.

Lynn Alley’s chapter on bread making is a great deal more creative than even I  want to be – she includes information on growing your own grain, milling grains at home, and creating your own leavening (I’ve done the leavening – that’s easy enough and there are a lot of recipes for making sour dough starters) – but if you are just starting out and don’t have a bread machine, try your hand at one of the many recipes for making quick breads – pumpkin, zucchini, banana nut. They’re easy to make and a freshly baked loaf of banana nut bread is so rewarding.  Small loaves of homemade fruit breads accompanied by a small jar of homemade jelly make a nice gift, too. When I was in Ohio one year, I made fresh banana nut bread for my nephew and his son – they didn’t even wait for it to cool off and polished off the entire loaf in a few minutes. You’d have thought I’d given them the crown jewels.  (My nephew, Russ, was stationed in San Diego when he was in the navy, in the early 1980s. Whenever he had a free weekend, he got on a Greyhound Bus and came to visit us in the San Fernando Valley. I often made banana nut bread for him to take back with him to the ship, to share with his friends. He has the fondest memories of those loaves of bread!)

I’m going to share one more of my “lost arts” with you and I am sure you’ll think I’m one brick short of a full load when I tell you this. I asked Bob to put up a clothes line for me and it was one of the things he accomplished before he became too sick to do anything but sleep.  (The hardest part of this project was finding some of the plastic-coated clothes line—most stores no longer carry clothesline!  But we persisted and did eventually find clothes line, and at the local hardware store, bought a bag of spring-type clothes pins (first we bought a package of peg-type clothes pins, the kind being used mostly, these days, for craft projects. As a matter of fact, that package came from a craft store). But I discovered that the peg-type clothes pins were hard to work with. Maybe they really aren’t made to hang clothes with, anymore!  Plastic spring-type clothes pins have a tendency to break apart easily. Initially, I wanted a clothes line to hang things of mine that shouldn’t go into the dryer – and my little area rugs that have rubber backings. I also wanted to be able to hang sheets and pillowcases on the line.  But the wonderful smell of air-dried laundry soon converted me – I began hanging most of the laundry out on the line (weather permitting). It takes a few minutes. It smells great. And – I was curious to see how much I might be able to save on our gas bill.

A lot has been written in recent years about old-time ways of doing things, forgotten recipes, lost arts.  Why the great interest? Obviously, given the number of books dedicated to these subjects, I’m not alone in my interest. And, I don’t have a burning desire to be a child again – our childhood, that of myself and my siblings, friends and cousins, wasn’t always all that easy. (My son Steve likes to roll his eyes and say “yeah, ma, tell us again how you had to walk ten miles to school in the snow, barefoot…”)

I never said we walked ten miles. We did walk—all the time, everywhere. (And, in the summertime, we were barefoot).  A couple of years ago, when my youngest brother Scott drove me around my childhood neighborhood of Fairmount, I was shocked and dismayed how much it had shrunk in size, and diminished in grandeur. The distance between our house and the school is probably not more than a mile but it was up hill and down, and seemed a long way for a child’s short legs. We walked to and from school in any kind of weather and I sometimes ran home for lunch, or else we walked to my grandmother’s house on Baltimore Avenue, up the street from St. Leo’s, and had lunch there. There was very little money for anything but you could always get fed at Grandma’s. I think food was her universal remedy for everything that ailed you.

One of the things that kids did around the neighborhood was to go around and collect soda pop bottles which could be redeemed at a corner grocery store for two cents each. Rarely did any of us have any spending money. Allowance? What was that? No one received an allowance.  When I became old enough to babysit, most of my spending money came from babysitting the neighbors’ children. And allowance or no, children were always expected to help with household chores. One of my earliest childhood chores was hanging socks on a wooden rack (in bad weather the rack could be propped open over a floor register, where the heat came up from the furnace. You also stood over a register to get warm while you got dressed on cold winter mornings). We were expected to wash and dry and put away dinner dishes, scrub floors, and—for the boys—mow the lawn, shovel snow, and clear the sidewalks in bad weather. My brother Jim had several part time jobs by the time he was about 12. One of these early jobs was “setting pins” at St. Bonaventure’s Bowling Alley in South Fairmount. Before automated pin setters were invented, young boys would have the job of setting up the bowling pins. There was a space between two alleys where a boy could sit, and set up the pins on either side of him. I’m amazed just thinking about it. Can you imagine a young boy being allowed to do something like that today? He could have easily gotten knocked silly by one of those bowling pins. I imagine many boys did get hurt doing this job.

Jim also delivered newspapers and in his early ‘teens, began working as a box boy at a food distribution company where one of our uncles was employed.  The neat thing about this was that my brother was allowed to bring home certain foods which had expired dates on them. We got a lot of canned biscuits that often exploded when we opened them—canned biscuits were a new thing in the early 1950s, and we didn’t care if they exploded. We baked them and ate them anyway.  There was also a new cookie mix that only required the addition of water and maybe an egg – I loved those cookie mixes.

Perhaps this explains the popularity of books such as Marguerite Patten’s “We’ll Eat Again”, a memoir of rationing in Great Britain during World War II, and cookbooks such as “Forgotten Recipes” and “Depression Era Recipes”, and magazines like “Reminisce”. It’s not so much that we long to relive those days as it is that we don’t want them to be forgotten. Who will remember these things when we are gone?
If you are interested in finding copies of any of these books – Lost Arts can be purchased on, pre-owned, for $5.00.  Forgotten Recipes can be found on starting at 99c for a pre-owned copy. has copies of Forgotten Recipes starting at one cent. You will pay $3.99 for shipping and handling but have the book for $4.00. Depression Era Recipes is on priced at 99c and up for a pre-owned copy. has copies starting at one cent & up for a pre-owned copy. Amazon also has new copies priced at $6.74. “We’ll Eat Again” by Marguerite Patten is higher priced at most websites although I did see one paperback copy on Amazon for 99c. My copy was a gift from a penpal.

A word of caution – when you type in any of these titles at either Amazon or Alibris, similar titles by other authors crop up and I could easily go on a wild spending spree and buy dozens of books.  It appears I am not alone in my quest to keep Lost Arts from becoming lost forever.

Sandra Lee Smith