COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS–IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON

“COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS – IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON”

She first came to my attention with the acquisition of her book, “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” published in 1962. I was writing “PEEK INTO THE PAST” at the time for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

“This is the first and only book,” claim Doubleday, the publishers, “which traces the history of cookery from the days of primitive man up to the present day of the Four Seasons Restaurant and gourmet supermarkets…”

Since I now have nearly two bookcases full of books on the history of food – I wondered – is it true? Was Betty Wason first to explore, in depth, this fascinating subject? I’ve been going through my collection, checking publication dates – and so far haven’t found any that precede 1962. Interesting! (I’d venture to guess that, since Betty Wason’s book was published, many other food history books have been published—I have quite a few of my own.)

“COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is packed with culinary history. It opens with a description of feasts in ancient Greece – inspired, no doubt, by Betty’s visit there during World War II. She covers the subject of cookery in the Far and Near East, all of Europe, and the New World. The last four chapters of this book are devoted to the United States—from Thomas Jefferson to the Harvey Girls and Betty Crocker. (It seems to me that almost all American food historians have had something to say about Betty Crocker!).

But “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is only one of more than two dozen books written by Elizabeth Wason Hall, whose pen name was Betty Wason. Her writing versatility stretched from cookbooks to a book about the Greek resistance during World War II, to a book published in 1999 about macular degeneration. If my calculations are correct, Betty Wason has been publishing books for 56 years!

Betty Wason was born and grew up in Delphi, Indiana, in 1912 where she studied classical violin and painting. She eventually enrolled in Purdue University hoping to become a dress designer. Wason graduated from Purdue in 1933 with the Great Depression in full swing. Work was not easy to come by and she settled on a job selling yard goods in the basement of Ayres Department Store in Indianapolis. giving cooking lessons for a utility company, and then working as an itinerant cooking teacher throughout Kentucky towns. Later, her first experience broadcasting was gained conducting a radio program for women in Lexington, Kentucky. Eventually, she moved to New York, where she became an assistant food editor at McCall’s Magazine.

“I was young and wanted to see the world. I had no money, so I decided I would become a journalist,” she said in a 1997 interview

“Long before I was old enough to handle saucepans,” Betty writes in “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, “I used to stand around in fascination watching Mother tossing up delectable dishes and begged to be allowed to try my hand at the game. My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating. And so my quest became one of finding new and exotic blends of flavor, and on bright Sunday afternoons when other girls were probably playing with paper dolls, I plunged into old cook books and read of strange combinations of foods, and revelled (sic) in imagined taste thrills.”

Betty’s first trip to Europe was as a free-lance journalist with credentials from Transradio Press; her first connection with Columbia Broadcasting System, at the time of the Nazi invasion of Norway, was as its staff correspondent in Stockholm. Later, she became correspondent as well to NEWSWEEK.

Between trips to Europe, Betty joined the research staff of the New York Newspaper PM, which was then in organization, and she planned the paper’s food page. Returning to Europe in the winter of 1939, she abandoned cooking and recipes to cover a long series of War fronts, from Finland and Norway down to the Balkans. “Betty Wason first became known to many Americans as the CBS correspondent, who always managed to be on the spot when headlines were being made in World War II,” claims one of her publishers.

Between the summers of 1938 and 1941, Betty Wason covered virtually every country in Europe, managing to be on hand where ever major journalistic events “broke”: Czechoslovakia during the Munich crisis and after, Vienna for the first post Munich conference; Hungary during the occupation of Slovakia; Rumania at the time of Codreanu’s execution; Yugoslavia during its Orthodox Christmas celebrations; Rome during Chamberlain’s visit to Mussolini; Paris during the end of the Spanish Civil War; Italy during the early part of the Second World War…..and the list goes on and on. (from the dust jacket of “Miracle In Hellas”). Betty Wason was on her way to Norway after the Nazi invasion began. Her cross into Norway was anything but routine. She eluded border guards and hitched a ride in a truck across the mountainous terrain where she hid in the woods to wait out an air raid. She interviewed numerous wounded British soldiers and found out just how poorly the Allied defense had gone. She returned to Stockholm and her broadcast by hitching rides and walking. But none of that mattered to the bosses at CBS. Despite her daring hard work they still asked her to find a man to read her copy. She left Sweden in the spring of 1940 in search of the next big story (and) she soon ended up in Greece after short stops in the Balkans and Istanbul. With an expected Italian invasion of Greece on the horizon, CBS again hired Wason. She also started stringing for Newsweek during this time. In October, 1940, when Italian forces began to move into Greece, a cable came from CBS: “Find male American broadcast 4U.”

Though CBS saw her gender as an impediment Wason strove on. During her six months in Greece her voice on the radio, Phil Brown, a secretary at the American embassy, introduced each broadcast with, “This is Phil Brown in Athens, speaking for Betty Wason.” Wason remained in Athens through the winter of 1940 and refused to leave the next spring. In April 1941, German air attacks ramped up in Greece’s capital. When the Nazis took Athens, Wason was stuck in the city for several weeks. Though America still remained “neutral” in the war Wason was kept, along with several other reporters, by the Germans who refused to allow anyone to broadcast.

Eventually Wason left Athens on a Lufthansa plane bound for Vienna. Also on the plane were Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press and George Weller of the Chicago Daily News. Once in Vienna the Gestapo detained the entire group under suspected espionage. Soon the male reporters were released but Wason was kept another week for, according to her, “reasons never divulged except that the police wanted to know more about me.”

When a CBS executive intervened, the Gestapo released her. She had married a Mr. Hall by 1943. On her return to the United States, Wason was inundated with interview requests, lecture requests and press attention. She recalled, “Everyone made a fuss over me but CBS,”

Wason wrote. “When I went to see (news director) Paul White, he dismissed me with, “You were never one of our regular news staff”

“then what, she wondered, had I been doing for CBS all that time in Greece?”

Wason authored 24 books after leaving CBS, mostly about one of her long time favorite hobbies, cooking, though her most successful book was her 1942 story “Miracle in Hellas: The Greeks Fight On”. She wrote that the book “was a resounding success. But the tough struggle to make it as a woman correspondent, ending with the cruel rebuff by CBS, cooled my desire for more overseas war reporting.”

In 1998, at age 86, Wason wrote about macular degeneration, an affliction which stole most of her eyesight and rendered her legally blind. Macular Degeneration: Living Positively with Vision Loss was written, in part, with a grant from the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind.

In the Introduction to “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, published by
Smith & Durrell, Inc., in 1943, she explains, in part, “This recipe book has been prepared in the hope that it will inspire the artists in the kitchen to turn their skills to the creation of new and savory dishes, not only overriding the bugaboo of wartime shortages, but perhaps even paving the way for a new era in American cuisine.

Many of the recipes,” she continues, “listed in the pages which follow have been adopted from peasant dishes of various European countries—recipes learned during the course of travels during the years 1938-1941, in countries either on the precipice of war, or already plunged into conflict, where rationing was often far more severe than any this country has yet to suffer.

In occupied Greece, where I was forced to remain during the first two months of German occupation we had to pound our own salt out of rock crystals, substitute grape dextrose for sugar (when we could get grape dextrose), dried chick peas for coffee, and a bricklike hunk of what tasted like gravy sawdust for bread. Our only fats were inferior olive oil, rationed to approximately eight ounces a month, and occasionally, white ‘sheep’s butter’ – mutton fat. There was virtually no meat. Yet we had meals, and some of them were surprisingly good….”

If the title, “COOKING WITHOUT CANS” piques your curiosity, it should be noted that the American food industry had worked diligently, prior to World War II, to convince American housewives that the easiest way to prepare anything began with opening up a can. You want soup “just like mama used to make?” open a can of condensed soup and add water—voila, ‘homemade’ soup. As a matter of fact, I think my own mother was one of those completely brainwashed by the food industry. The only fresh vegetables or fruit we ever had were potatoes, carrots, celery, and in the summertime, an occasional watermelon or cantaloupe. Everything else came out of a can. So, along came the War – and the tin used by the food industry for tin cans was, like almost everything else, needed for the War effort. Tin cans were melted down and cast into solid metal “pigs” for re-using in the war industry. (James Trager, author of “The Food Chronology” notes, in 1943, “U.S. housewives wash and flatten tins for recycling: one less tin can per week per family will save enough tin and steel to build 5,000 tanks or 38 Liberty Ships…”). On a personal level, I remember how we rinsed out the cans, removed the labels, opened both ends of the tin can, and then flattened it. It’s one of the very few things I actually do remember about the War years. I was a baby when World War II began.

Consequently, canned goods were restricted, although home-canned fruits and vegetables were not. (During peak war years, an estimated 20 million Victory gardens were growing in the USA, producing over a third of the vegetables available in this country). For the duration of the War, American women would have to learn “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, which was, I believe, Betty Wason’s first cookbook.

“DINNERS THAT WAIT”, published in 1954, may have been Betty Wason’s second cookbook. I happened to find a paperback copy of “DINNERS THAT WAIT” in a used book store some time ago. Not only was I delighted to find something else written by Ms. Wason – it only cost a dollar! This little book is aimed at “every hostess who feels that her guests, as well as her meal, should be enjoyed…” The solution, offered in “DINNERS THAT WAIT” was a collection of main dishes that were delay proof, that could be prepared hours or days in advance. Again, the author draws on her European exposure, offering recipes such as Moussaka, that she learned to make from Greek friends, Smorgasbord, and – everybody’s favorite, Kidneys with Mustard sauce. “It’s too bad,” notes the author, “kidneys are so little appreciated in this country. When properly prepared, they are superb, worthy of the most discriminating palate….”

One of the best features of this little book is that it provides step by step directions—literally—right down to Step 5: Set table. Put water and coffee in pot. Get dressed. This would be a great cookbook, even today, for young women who are unaccustomed to entertaining. (I think I will try Intoxicated Pork or the Chicken Tetrazzini the next time it’s my turn to host a dinner party at my house).

In 1963, Doubleday & Company would publish “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” by Betty Wason. She notes, “I thought I knew so much about Spain that I could, if I wished, write a book about Spanish cooking, based simply on the many Spanish cookbooks in my own library. Fortunately, a little nagging worry beset me. I should really visit Spain before writing about the country. So, I did. I made a speedy eight hour flight to Madrid on a TWA jet, and I traveled over as much of the country as I could cover in a month’s time, eating, eating, eating, wherever I went….” Betty’s nine-year-old daughter, Ellen, accompanied her mother to Spain, offering her candid view of Spanish food. The Introduction to “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” provides a capsulized history of the history of Spanish food that I think you would find interesting. I was particularly intrigued with what she had to say about olives, olive oil, and sherry.

“Sherry,” writes Betty, “is a mysterious and unique wine. Its history goes back to antiquity. The Phoenicians brought the first grapevines to the area where all the world’s supply of true sherry is still produced, and they named the city Xera…Whether the wine produced in Roman times was the same as the sherry of today no one knows; however, after the vineyards had been destroyed by the phylloxera disease in 1894, new disease resistant vines were brought from the United States to be planted in Jerez, and lo and behold the wine was the same as ever….”

The entire book is written in this style, recipes and history stirred together to create a banquet of Spanish cooking. It is exactly the kind of book that cookbook readers enjoy.

In 1966, Galahad Books published Betty Wason’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”, which is presented as her 11th book. The publishers note, “She has written extensively about travel and world affairs, and served as a CBS correspondent in Greece during the German occupation in 1941. Her articles have appeared in VOGUE, HOUSE & GARDEN, HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, ATLANTIC MONTHLY and AMERICAN HOME”. At the time “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” was published, Betty was also a consultant to the Spanish Oil Institute and other firms.”

“THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” is divided, (similarly to The Everything Cookbook that would come a few years later), into four parts. Part I – the Wonders of Cheese, offers an armchair history of cheese, while Part II is a Glossary of the World’s Cheeses. Part III explains how to serve cheese (there is a Cheese Etiquette, in case you didn’t know), and Part IV – Cheese in the Kitchen – presents us with recipes that range from cheese soups to cheesecakes.

“All my life I have been a cheese lover,” writes Betty, “but until I did the research for this book, I had no idea cheese was such a complex and fascinating subject…but the only way for anyone to really learn about cheese is to taste it….”

Once again, it becomes evident that Betty’s prior exposure to other places and other things provided some of the inspiration for yet another book. She explains, “My passionate interest in archaeology provided to be a further help in delving into the early history of cheese-making, for in several museums in Spain I saw tools of cheese-making dating from the Bronze Age, and in archaeology books, in my library plus translations of the classic Greek and Roman writers, I came across many interesting anecdotes about cheese in ancient times…”
Curiously, “A SALUTE TO CHEESE”, published the same year but by Hawthorn Books, is identical to “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”! I was so pleased when I found a copy of the former in a used bookstore, complete with dust jacket, for only $6.00. It was only after I got home and began leafing through the pages that I realized it was the same book, recipe for recipe, page by page. Both books were also published in 1966. (One can only guess at the reason why the same book was published by two different publishers at the same time. Perhaps one of the two cost less than the other?)

In 1967, Doubleday & Company published “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” by Betty Wason. Again, she visited the country. “Like most Americans today,” she writes, “I chose to fly to Germany in order to spend all my available time in the country itself, using the speedy transatlantic services of Trans World Airlines between New York and Frankfurt. Later, taking a cruise on the North German Lloyd’s luxurious new motor ship Europa, I realized how lovely it would be to have the leisure once again to cross the Atlantic by ship. At least, during the Caribbean cruise, I was able to talk with Chef Herbert Burmeister several times and to get from him recipes for some of the superb German specialties served on the Europa….” Betty describes the Germany she visited in the mid-1960s, but recalls, “It was in the late thirties, on the eve of World War II, when I visited Germany the first time as a journalist.

During the Hitler era, elegance was frowned upon, at least for the people as a whole. The women were not permitted to use make-up and their clothes looked as if they had been designed to make every woman as dowdy and shapeless as possible…I was in German twice during the war years, before Pearl Harbor, and again in 1950 I visited Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart when those cities still had the rubble of aerial bombardments cluttering their streets and most shops offered only the barest necessities of life. To visit the richly prosperous, gay West Germany of today (1960s) is almost like seeing another country altogether. One is staggered by the change…”

She notes that for her, the most revealing things about people are found in little things. She says she always loved wandering through markets looking at the foods on display as a way of learning what kinds of foods go into home cooking. She also explains that one of the most difficult things about studying German cuisine was the language. “I once had the naïve idea that Germans all spoke the same language” she writes. She goes on to explain the differences—which reminded me of a conversation I once had with my German grandmother. Many different German foods and recipes are called by different names, depending on the region. Betty explains many of these differences. In this book, she presents a cross-section of recipes from the German cuisine of today (that is, in the 1960s) with new specialties born of today’s prosperity and old favorites which reflect the customs and traditions of another age.

“THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal of history, along with recipes. I decided to quote Betty on the subject of sauerkraut, since this particular topic was discussed at my cousin Dan’s 4th of July cookout one holiday. (I make sauerkraut every few years*, and can it. My cousin loves it so I keep him and his wife supplied. My cousin’s brother in law informed us that he learned how to cook sauerkraut while in Berlin and so knows the best way. I said oh, I just cook it with bratwurst. (I cook it pretty much the same way my mother did. We always have mashed potatoes and creamed peas along with it). (*my sauerkraut making days ended after moving to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and losing my big heavy special crock)

Betty writes, “After my recent gastronomic tour of West Germany, I concluded that one cannot dismiss sauerkraut simply as a vegetable. It is part of the German way of life.

Yet until the Mongol (or Tartar) hordes swept into Eastern Europe in the 13th century, sauerkraut was unknown in Germany. According to legend, at least, it was the Chinese who invented the dish, during the building of the Great Wall when the coolies were fed from barrels of cabbage preserved in sour rice wine. Salt was too precious to use then; wine (or vinegar) was cheaper. The Mongols learned about the sour cabbage when they conquered China, and brought it with them to Hungary. From Hungary it traveled to Austria, and from Austria to Germany. Which just goes to show,” Betty concludes, “how history plays strange tricks on people’s food habits..”

She goes on to explain that the ways of preparing sauerkraut in Germany are many. Along with regional differences they are differences in personal preferences. While some people like it cooked long and slow until very soft (which is how I cook ours), other people like it very sour and crunchy. Betty says that every region in Germany has at least one favorite sauerkraut dish. She also offers a recipe for making your own sauerkraut. “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal more than recipes for sauerkraut, however. If you ever happen to find a copy, this book, like all of Wason’s cookbooks, makes for enjoyable reading.

Another formidable undertaking would be “THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK” published in 1970. This is a nice thick cookbook containing more than two thousand recipes!

“THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK”, published by Hawthorn Books, is described by the publishers as five books in one: Book One is the “ABC’s of FOOD PREPARATION”. Book Two contains “MENU PLANNING AND WEIGHT CONTROL”, while Book Three offers “RECIPES”. Book Four is a “GUIDE TO ENTERTAINING” and Book Five “ALL ABOUT WINES AND SPIRITS”. This is a big thick cookbook that would compare favorably to almost any new comprehensive cookbook being published today.

In the course of her career, Betty Wason has worked as a food specialist and consultant. She was an associate food editor of WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION and editor at General Foods Kitchens. In addition, she wrote articles for HOUSE AND GARDEN, VOGUE, AMERICAN HOME, WOMAN’S DAY and other leading magazines. At one time, she was the woman’s editor for THE VOICE OF AMERICA.

At some point in her career, Betty Wason married and became Betty Wason Hall, and the mother of at least one daughter, Ellen. Ellen undoubtedly provided the inspiration for “COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS” and “ELLEN: A MOTHER’S STORY OF HER RUNAWAY DAUGHTER”.

Betty moved to Pleasantville, New York along with a large collection of new and old cookbooks. Hunter Books, publishers of Macular Degeneration, indicate that as of 1998, Betty Wason was living in Seattle. Betty did not limit herself to writing cookbooks—she has, apparently, over the years written books about a variety of subjects.

The talented young lady who started out teaching cooking lessons traveled far and wide and experienced a versatile career that most of us can only dream about. She was, quite obviously, interested in a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to macular degeneration. And imagine this—her book on macular degeneration was published when Betty was 86 years old! Luckily for us, who love cookbooks, she wrote about those too.

Before closing, I want to make another comment about one of Betty Wason’s non-cookbook book accomplishments. In particular, I want to mention “MIRACLE AT HELLAS” which took some intensive searching to find, but was worth the search and the price.

I can only recommend that, since so many of Betty Wason’s books are out of print, you search diligently in your used book stores or internet websites such as Amazon.com for anything with her name on it.

Betty Wason is an author whose work has spanned six decades. I think you will be as impressed as I am over the quality and timelessness of her work.

Betty Wason passed away in February 2001 at the age of 88.

BOOKS BY BETTY WASON

• COOKING WITHOUT CANS, 1943, SMITH & DURRELL, INC. PUBLISHERS
• DINNERS THAT WAIT, 1954/DOLPHIN BOOKS (PAPERBACK EDITION)
• COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS, 1962/DOUBLEDAY
• THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING, 1963, DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY
• BRIDE IN THE KITCHEN, 1964 (publisher?)
• TRAVEL FAIR; HOWARD JOHNSON’S TIPS FOR TRIPS FOR FAMILIES ON THE GO, 1965 (publisher?)
• ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE COOKERY, 1966, GALAHAD BOOKS
• A SALUTE TO CHEESE, 1966, HAWTHORN BOOKS
• THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING 1967/DOUBLEDAY
• IT TAKES “JACK” TO BUILD A HOUSE; A DOWN-TO-EARTH GUIDE TO BUILDING AND REMODELING BY BETTY WASON, ILLUSTRATED BY B. STEPHEN SALTSBERG, 1968 (publisher?)
• THE LANGUAGE OF COOKERY, 1968 (publisher?)
• COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS, 1969, ASSOCIATED PRESS
• BETTY WASON’S GREEK COOKBOOK, 1969/MACMILLAN
• HAIR TODAY & GONE TOMORROW, 1969 (publisher?)
• ART OF VEGETARIAN COOKERY, 1969 (publisher?)
• THE MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1770 (publisher?)
• THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK. 1970/HAWTHORNE BOOKS
• MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1973 (publisher?)
• GIVING A CHEESE & WINE TASTING PARTY, 1975 (publisher?)
• IMPROVING YOUR HOME FOR PLEASURE & PROFIT, 1975 (publisher?)
• ELLEN, A MOTHER’S STORY ABOUT A RUNAWAY DAUGHTER, 1976 (publisher?)
• SOUP TO DESSERT HIGH FIBER COOKBOOK 1976 (publisher?)
• MACULAR DEGENERATION, 1999 (publisher?)

–review by Sandra Lee Smith
Updated March, 2017

THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK

THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK, BY ALICE DEVINE LOEBEL is yet another cookbook on my soup/stews shelf that caught my eyes as I was looking over my personal collection of soups/stews, or one pot dishes. First published in 1969 with one repeat in 1974, it happens to be one of the books I found at the Burbank Friends of the Library Sales before I moved to the Antelope Valley in November of 2008. (I have fond memories of attending the Burbank Friends sales with girlfriends Connie and Mandy).

I have since found many great cookbooks at the Lancaster (California) Friends of the Library book sales. At their most recent Friends sale, I managed to buy FIFTY ONE preowned or Library discards for a total of $21.50! (I will be happy to write more about the Friends of the Library sales if anyone is interested in learning more about them). I have to confess – I don’t read all of the books I find and buy right away—I’m good but not that good. First I split them up into categories. At the recent sale, I found a dozen children’s books to give to a couple of my grandkids.

I wish I had spent more time going over the children’s books which are in so many different levels – from first readers to pre-teens; the latter is where my granddaughter, Jewls, is right now. Abby is a early reader, at the age of seven. I think she enjoys more being READ to, though.

But getting back to the recent Friends’ sale at Lancaster, Library—I found over a dozen cookbooks, some in like-new condition. I found about a dozen books of fiction that I am looking forward to reading. I found a few books I sent aside for my nieces, or my penpal, Lisa, in New York, who loves the books I send to her—I have managed to thin out the ranks of my book collection by sending a lot of them to Lisa.

(it was the only way I could find shelf space for new purchases!) – I’m embarrassed to admit this—but when Bob and I moved to the Antelope Valley, we went from about 3,000 square feet of space, including the guest house which Bob outfitted with a lot of bookshelves and a guest room for my brother, Jim, when he visited. The Arleta house had plenty of space for bookshelves throughout most of the house and we made the most of it in our nineteen years in the Arleta house on Arleta Avenue.

In 2010 now in the Antelope Valley, Bob created a garage library utilizing some of our bookcases from Arleta, but creating other bookshelves, a wondrous creation when you consider the garage library only takes up half of the space in the garage – my car is in the other half along with Rubbermaid cupboards along one side of the garage half—those shelves are packed with all my cooking equipment that wouldn’t fit in the kitchen. It pretty much has to be seen to be believed.

And I donated boxes and boxes of books to the Lancaster Library in 2009 and 2010.
Well, my shelf of soups, stews, one dish meals – is at my eye level if I am sitting on the edge of my bed and looking over books that might be suitable for posting on my blog. And the catchy title of THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK caught my attention—it even has the original dust jacket which is especially desirable if you want to write about a particular cookbook.

(*I remember years ago, writing about the Browns and their cookbooks when the only information available was what you found on the dust jackets and that was scant—ditto two other favorite cookbook authors, Myra Waldo and Meta Given. Back then the publishers didn’t provide much background information about the authors. (was it to protect their privacy? I don’t know). The Internet changed all that! I have since discovered much biographical information about my favorite cookbook authors with the advent of the World Wide Web—I have even received emails on my blog from descendants of my favorite cookbook authors. It opens another whole dimension to what a writer can write about favorite authors and I am so thrilled and delighted when someone who was related to, or personally knew, one of my favorite authors writes to me!

Much along these same lines, the dust jacket to THE SIMMERING POT COOKBOOK is almost entirely devoted to enticing the reader into buying and reading (or borrow from the library) this cookbook. At the end of the jacket blurb, is a short message—kind of an after-thought “Alice Devine Loebel lives in New York City and in Connecticut. Her husband, Herbert Loebel, took the photographs for this book”. (a scant few, I might add)

But, a while ago, I discovered, on the back of the dust jacket, a comment written by none other than M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote, “who as a food writer and critic sees most of today’s cookbooks and approves of few, writes: “a good book in a morass of shoddy stuff..honest and sensible and well written, a rare combination in current culinary texts. It is also persuasive and tempting, so that no reader may well resist its intelligent approach to the pots and pans, prime weapons in our art of living.”

This being said, why should you look for THE SIMERING POT COOKBOOK? For one thing, Alice devotes a fair amount of information, “the basic technique of the magical stockpot, regarded as an essential by classic French cookbooks, together with the steamer method which preserves nutrition, flavor and the appearances of foods, form the theme of this high quality cookbook…” –

Alice pays close attention to kitchen ecology followed by The Stockpot. Writes the author, “the stockpot is the oldest, most tried and true method of recycling food. The basic requirements to produce a rich and toothsome stock exist in every contemporary kitchen.”
The chapter dedicated to the Stockpot starts with a quote from Escoffier “Stock is everything in cooking…without it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy. If, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.” Escoffier knew what he was writing about. And so did Alice Loebel.

She tells us “the desire to serve forth from our modern kitchens the wholesomeness and delicious foods of our grandmother’s era is a universal wish. Despite the over-packaged and refined foods in today’s market, it can be done…she says “convenience foods such as TV dinners and commercial frozen entrees are costly, low in nutrition and their wrappings are pollutants”…elsewhere, she writes “During the era of large wood and coal burning kitchen stoves, whether in a palace or in a pioneer’s shack, the stockpot stood permanently and majestically on the back of every stove. It simmered continuously and the savory leftovers of meals and cooking scraps were always being added”…elsewhere she writes “the stockpot is the oldest and most tried and true method of recycling food..”

Reading this about stockpots reminded me of one of my grandmother’s soups that we all loved and enjoyed with a freshly baked homemade salt bread. Her soup was a broth, undoubtedly chicken broth, in which she added tiny little dumplings called Rivels. (we pronounced it as ‘rivel-lies)

Another family favorite was ham and bean soup, made with a ham bone and some ham scraps—to which everyone in the family added about a tablespoon or two of vinegar directly into your bowl of soup. This soup is still one of my favorites.

Alice provides stock recipes for classic chicken stock, classic beef stock, classic brown stock and classic ham stock- and one not to be overlooked, classic fish stock.
There are a variety of consommé recipes which gave me pause – I don’t recall ever seeing anything except a beef consommé – and recipes for making your own bouillon—that one did make me sit up and take notice. I have to confess, the only bouillon I had ever made are the little foil-wrapped chicken, vegetable and beef bouillon cubes-which, admittedly, are almost always very salty.

The rest of Alice’s cookbook is filled with mouth-watering recipes you will surely want to try—imagine Potato and Bacon Soup, or Potato and Spinach Soup, Avocado Soup, a delicate creamy cauliflower soup, or how about a cream of pea and mushroom soup? And I was thrilled to find a Hungarian Goulash Soup—a sister-in-law of the author was raised in Vienna and this was her family’s recipe. Additionally, there are an assortment of chowder recipes, providing a Scallop Chowder and a Fish Chowder that I know I will have to try. There is even a recipe for Pot Roast which just happens to be what I have been cooking this afternoon, using up left over pot roast from a Sunday Dinner for my youngest son and daughter-in-law.

I haven’t counted all the recipes in Alice Loebel’s cookbook, “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”—just want to say there are quite a lot of recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere.
I went onto Amazon.com to see if they have copies of pre-owned copies of the Simmering Pot Cookbook—they do and there are quite a few. I’ve been thinking, getting some extra copies would be great Christmas or birthday presents for my like-minded friends. There are eighteen pre-owned books, starting at $3.55. Remember that whenever you purchase a pre-owned book on Amazon.com, there is a $3.99 shipping & handling charge. I find that the pre-owned books are shipped quickly and are well wrapped.

Alice Loebel was also the author of “The Stockpot and Steamer Cookbook”, published in 1969, and may have the inspiration for “The Simmering Pot Cookbook”. I didn’t find any other cookbooks by this author.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

Sandy's Chatter

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…

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FORGOTTEN RECIPES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 94c. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00. I found pre-owned copies starting at twenty-five cents. And just for the record, I recently bought two copies of a book recently published; I chose the pre-owned option figuring I was still saving money and the books are pristine, just like new. Just saying!!

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

I found FORGOTTEN RECIPES listed on Amazon.com; numerous copies can be found in the pre-owned listings, starting at 25 cents. Shipping and handling is still $3.99—still a great bargain. I posted this article originally in 2011. – sls

FORGOTTEN RECIPES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 25 cents and up. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

*I found FORGOTTEN RECIPES listed on Amazon.com; numerous copies can be found in the pre-owned listings, starting at 25 cents. Shipping and handling is still $3.99—still a great bargain. I posted this article originally in 2011. – sls

THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING

“The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten. In the words of the New Yorker is “so well prepared, so expertly seasoned, so full of flavorsome surprises that if it were a meal, even Mr. Steingarten would have difficulty finding fault with it….it is a book worth celebrating” – and I agree!

Mr. Steingarten, who has been a food critic for VOGUE Magazine since 1989, is, in my words – a hoot! I have often laughed out loud, whether reading alone or with someone else in the room, in which case I usually have to read aloud, to share.

“the Man Who Ate Everything” was the 1997 winner of the Julia Child book award and a finalist, also in 1997, of the James Beard Book Award.

Mr.Steingarden trained to be a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the HARVARD LAMPOON. For over eight years has been a food critic of Vogue Magazine.

When I leafed through THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING, my attention was riveted to a chapter called The Smith Family Cookbook….I thought “wait a minute—I’ve read this before….somewhere else” and of course I had. It was a chapter included in a charming little book called “Favorite Cookbooks” by Moira Hodgson for whom I wrote about in the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange) some years ago, earning myself a few new fruitcake penpals along the way.

Mr. Steingarten’s book is a collection of essays, not a cookbook (although you may find a few recipes interspersed throughout the book, as when he writes about his challenge to find the perfect pie crust). The author writes with great humor while providing food for thought. (*I could have told him, there isn’t a perfect pie crust and saved him all the work)

If you are the kind of cookbook person who often wonders how something in the culinary world came about, this is the book for you.

“When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, observe the publishers, Vintage Books, which is a division of Random House, “he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is ‘fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad’. Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called “dinner.” As I tend to agree with Mr. Steingarten’s gut feeling about blue food, with perhaps the exception of blueberries, I felt I had met up with a kindred spirit.

Take, for example, his essay called “PRIMAL BREAD”. “The world is divided” explains the author “Into two camps: those who can live happily on bread alone and those who also need vegetables, meat and dairy products…bread is the only food I know what satisfied completely all by itself. It comforts the body, charms the senses, gratifies the soul and excites the mind. A little butter also helps…”
What follows is a day by day account of Mr. Steingarten’s pilgrimage to make the perfect loaf of bread.

Introducing a chapter called “Playing Ketchup”, the author writes “When rumor recently reached my ears that U.S. sales of salsa would soon eclipse those of ketchup, catsup and catchup (these words all mean the same thing) he rushed down to his local supermarket, planting himself in the ketchup department and stood a lonely vigil as though my presence alone could stanch the tide of chunky piquant salsa that menaced from the opposite of aisle 5…”

Jeffrey Steingarten is a funny man although sometimes so droll that you aren’t sure whether he is being amusing or sarcastic. I laugh anyway.

All of you cookbook collectors who love to curl up at night with a good cookbook, “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING is a delightful diversion from strictly reading recipes (although the ones included in this book are treasures!)

Additionally, this is the kind of book you can carry around with you going to the doctor or the dentist or waiting for kids to get out of school.

Although printed some time ago, THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING can be found on Amazon.com with a wide variety of copies, both new and pre-owned, starting around $3 or $4.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith@sandychatter

THE MEANING OF HOLIDAYS, THEN AND NOW

Just before Thanksgiving (2016), my older brother, Jim, texted me to ask what I was doing for Thanksgiving. They, he wrote, were going out for dinner with another couple.
We, I texted back to him, are having a roast chicken dinner, here at my place, along with salad, mashed potatoes*, green beans and choice of pumpkin pie or angel food cake. My youngest son, Kelly, is on a restricted diet and can’t eat turkey. However, he can eat chicken. He can’t eat pumpkin pie (no milk or dairy products including no butter) He can eat margarine, such as Imperial, which we can put in with the mashed potatoes. He can’t have milk or dairy products in the mashed potatoes. My daughter in law, through trial and error, has discovered she can drain off the potatoes when they are soft enough to mash, and then put the potato water back in with the potatoes to get a desired mashed texture (plus margarine, not butter).

Not long ago, my daughter in law, Keara, sent me her recipe for roasting chickens with 4” lengths of celery stuffed into the cavity, salt and pepper inside and out and some onion powder. I roasted two chickens on Thanksgiving Day and sent them home with the leftover angel food cake (something Kelly can eat) and the leftover chicken to go in one of my daughter in law’s many recipes like burritos and tostados made with shredded leftover chicken. Oddly enough, none of us missed having turkey. Time was when I would have made turkey and rice soup with the leftover turkey carcass, which was my son Steve’s favorite soup. But Steve and his wife live in South Dakota now. Son Chris and his family live in the San Fernando Valley. (Kelly and Keara live around the corner from me).

There was a time, also, when I would have trekked out on Black Friday to find some wonderful discounts—but my bad knees and feet keep me from venturing very far. I will try to order as many gifts on the Internet as possible. Amazon.com knows when I am coming.

Now, let me back up to a time when I DID roast a turkey on Thanksgiving. I was a bride at the age of 18. I tried my best to make a decent Thanksgiving dinner but my then-husband found fault with every meal Holiday or not. “Potatoes didn’t have enough salt” he would say.

Then around in the mid-1960s we became friends with a Hungarian man and his wife who, along with her extended family, came from Missouri. We were invited to the wife’s family’s huge Thanksgiving dinner which included ham, turkey, a wide assortment of pies and cakes—all I was asked to bring were homemade biscuits. We enjoyed being a part of this family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t think I cooked another Thanksgiving dinner after that. (in the 1980s, when our marriage was on its last legs, my husband and I took marital counseling. Inevitably, the salt or lack of salt in my potatoes came up.

Our counselor was baffled. “Couldn’t you just add salt to the potatoes on your own plate?” she asked.

“That’s not the point my then-husband said, “Then how would she LEARN that the meal wasn’t well prepared?” I think our counselor saw the handwriting on the wall before I did. My husband dropped counseling. I continued for another seven months, trying to save something that HE, OBVIOUSLY, DIDN’T WANT TO SAVE.

Getting back to my brother’s text messages my brother Jim lamented when we were children how a huge dinner would be prepared on Thanksgiving. Sometimes we went to my grandmother’s for dinner, sometimes my grandmother came to our house. When we were very young, after a hearty meal, the adults would play cards while we children were given enough money for a movie and either a coke or popcorn (I think a quarter per child was usually enough for everything) – and I think our Uncle Al gave us each a quarter (we thought he was rich) and one of the adults took us to the West Hills Theatre where, hopefully, we would stay for hours.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at both my mother’s and my grandmother’s homes, and I just barely remember being shuffled off to a movie theatre. When I was very young, there was a movie theater on Carl Street, walking distance from Grandma’s or our house on Sutter Street. The only movie I can remember seeing there was something called Johnny Belinda. I was too young to understand the plot.

I can just barely remember holiday dinners at my grandparent’s home on the second floor of their house on Baltimore Street where, after dinner, the adults played cards. I would try to fall asleep on a day bed in that room—hopefully where I would fall asleep and be allowed to spend the night.

Holiday events changed when my grandfather became ill and passed away on February 18, 1950. I was nine years old at the time.

My grandmother moved downstairs in two rooms at the front of the house; she rented out the two rooms at the back of the house and the entire second floor as well. (our Uncle John (Hans to the family) and his wife and sons lived in the rooms on the third floor.

We children went to grandma’s almost every school day for lunch. On Mondays after school, my sister Becky and her children as well as I would go to Grandma’s for dinner and I would spend the night with her. We were all terribly spoiled on good food – a combination of German and Hungarian. Whatever it was, we called it German food, not having any knowledge of the distinction between German and Hungarian cuisine. All we knew and maybe it wasn’t until later, was that my grandmother came from Germany and my grandfather from Hungary.

I continued having one night a week spent at my grandmother’s, all the way through high school. Regretfully, I married in December of 1958; my grandmother passed away about a year later. I didn’t see her before she died; my brother in law came to tell me and take me to good Samaritan Hospital but she had already passed away by the time we got there. Grandma’s recipes were never written down—she could barely write anything in English. I have tried to resurrect her wonderful strudel recipes but the exact recipes passed away with her.

My Aunt Evelyn (whom we called Aunt Dolly) learned Grandma’s recipes by standing by her and watching how grandma made everything. But those recipes died along with Aunt Dolly who passed away in 2012. My sister, Becky, managed to copy some of those recipes but there are precious few that have survived. Becky and I compiled a family cookbook and managed to get it published before Becky died in October of 2004.

We called it “Grandma’s Favorite” as a nod to our beloved grandmother who managed to make us all believe, growing up, that each one of us was Grandma’s favorite. It was not something ever spoken, but each of us knew that “I was grandma’s favorite”

We discovered this one day at my sister Becky’s house, all of us sitting around the kitchen table where we were discussing favorite memories and one of us spoke up an said “well, you know, I was grandma’s favorite”.

“Like heck you were,” someone disputed . “I was grandma’s favorite” and so on until everyone at the table had laid claim to being grandma’s favorite. (I didn’t enter the dispute, knowing only too well that I was really grandma’s favorite.

Years later my sister and I reflected on this wonderful gift our grandmother had given to all of us—and how we were endeavoring to be the same kind of grandmother to our grandchildren.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I began taking my two younger brothers Biff and Bill, downtown to do our Christmas shopping at the 5&10 cent stores. We also checked out the Santa Clauses in the department stores—you got a free candy cane by waiting in line to see Santa Claus. (We figured that we increased our chances of getting what we wanted for Christmas, if we stood in line to see all of Santa’s helpers. (We KNEW that the real Santa Claus was busy making toys in the North Pole).

After we completed our shopping for presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings, we took our gifts upstairs where we wrapped our presents in ironed-out gift wrap. I think my favorite gift, from my older brother Jim, was five brand new Nancy Drew mysteries. It was the start of a collection of books (from which I have never recovered).

Downtown Cincinnati was awash with all the decorated department store windows— and I remember going to see a “living nativity” – that I think was held in Garfield Park. I haven’t been downtown at Christmas time in many years. I wonder if any of my brothers have been downtown during the Christmas holidays—I don’t know the answer to that. –

Sandra Lee Smith