BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP (PART 2)

PART 2

President Taft (from my hometown of Cincinnati!) the biggest and heaviest of all American Presidents, was also partial to turtle soup.

Terrapin soup was one of President Taft’s favorite luncheon recipes, but when it was served at State’s dinners, a special cook was hired for the $5.00 charge to cook just the soup—given what I now know about killing and cooking turtle, I’m willing to bet that the reason a special cook was hired to cook the terrapin wasn’t so much the cooking end of the job as it was –first kill one turtle.

Mrs. Taft was a great one for invading the White House kitchens to peek into the pots and pans and undoubtedly did so even when the special cook was in attendance. Mrs. Taft kept three cooks in the kitchen but seems to have “gone through” them one after another, possibly due to her habit of invading the White House kitchen to taste what was in the pots! **

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s family LOVED soups. Throughout the many years of the Roosevelt administration, soup pots and kettles were kept simmering on the White House stoves. One of the President’s favorite was pepper pot soup, while Cream of Almond was one of Eleanor’s favorite soups. They also favored fish chowder and something called Mongole Soup (made with yellow split peas and tomato juice) which was an inaugural day favorite. Poppy Cannon tells us that Mongole Soup was also a hearty midnight snack for the Roosevelts house guests.

TO MAKE PRESIDENT (FDR) ROOSEVELT’S MONGOLE SOUP you will need
Yellow split peas
Tomato juice
Onions
Salt & pepper

Soak ½ cup of yellow split peas overnight. In the morning, drain the peas and set over low heat with 2 cups tomato juice. Simmer several hours or until the peas disintegrate. Seasons with 1 tsp grated onion and salt & pepper to taste. Serves 6.
**
However, a favorite Roosevelt soup story involves turtle! Like so many of his predecessors, the president loved turtle and terrapin soup. Shortly after his inauguration, some terrapin were sent to him as a gift. The creatures roamed around the White House cellars, terrorizing Mrs. Nesbitt, the housekeeper.

When she ruined the first terrapin after it was cooked, the President was furious so that the next time terrapin arrived at the White House, the president hired someone from the Metropolitan Club to prepare it!

(it should be noted there is a RITUAL to killing and cooking turtles. (I will spare you the details…trust me, you don’t want to know!)

“In the end,” writes the History Channel on Google, “turtle soup became the victim of its own overwhelming popularity. It migrated from presidential dinners down to railway dining cars, and finally to the red and white Campbell’s can in the 1920s. by World War II, harried cooks had long tired of dressing their own turtles, and cheaper and tastier canned options to turtle became available. Newfangled convenience products like TV dinners and Spam were the final strikes against the increasingly unfashionable turtle soup and by the 1960s, it had gone the way of the pepper pot, served only in certain regions of America…” (from The rise and Fall of Turtle Soup on Google)

The Roosevelt Family enjoyed Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup, Chicken Soup Amandine, and Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Fish Chowder (Sara was FDR’s mother) as well as Green Gumbo, a luncheon favorite of FDR’s along with Crab Gumbo.

Moving on to the Trumans administration—Mrs. Truman was a very private person and resisted any attempts to divulge favorite recipes. That said, Mrs. Truman made herself popular with all the staff in the White House. She knew what she wanted, she knew how things should be done, and how to give orders in a pleasant way. A household employee who said “this is not how the Roosevelts did this” was quickly replaced.

Poppy Cannon doesn’t name names in the Presidents Cookbook and it has been eons ago, so I think it’s safe to say that the person who made that remark was undoubtedly Mrs. Nesbitt, who was hired by Mrs. Roosevelt and came to the White House with them from Hyde Park. (During Mrs. Nesbitt’s reign, it was undoubtedly her way or the highway).

The Truman ways were not the Roosevelt ways. Mrs. Truman took the household bookkeeping in hand and ran it herself. She ruled out breakfast for the daily sleep-out employees, to cut the huge food bills. Every day she sat at her desk and tried to run the White House like a business.

Mr. Truman was a senator prior to becoming Vice President going into FDRs fourth administration and enjoyed Senate Bean Soup, a recipe that has appeared in numerous cookbooks but I discovered that the recipe in Poppy Cannon’s cookbook is made with CANNED SOUP – so I am a bit nonplussed where I found the canned bean soup recipe—the following is an authentic copy of Senate Bean Soup:

TO MAKE SENATE BEAN SOUP

2 CUPS DRY NAVY BEANS
3 QUARTS WATER
1 MEATY HAM BONE
½ CUP MASHED COOKED POTATOES
3 ONIONS, MINCE
4-5 STALKS CELERY, MINCED
2 CLOVER GARLICS, MINCED
¼ CUP MINCED PARSLEY
SALT & PEPPER
LEMON SLICES* OPTIONAL

SOAK BEANS OVERNIGHT IN WATER. ADD HAM BONE AND SIMMER 1 HOUR OR UNTIL BEANS START TO GET TENDER. ADD MASHED POTATOES AND MIX UNTIL SMOOTH. ADD ONIONS, CELERY GARLIC AND PARSLEY AN DSIMMON 1 HOUR LONGER OR UNTIL BEANS ARE SOFT. REMOVE THE HAM BONE, THEN DICE MEAT AND RETURN MEAT TO SOUPL THIN WITH HOT WATER IF NECESSARY. (SOUP SHOULD BE THICK) SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER. GARNISH WITH LEMON SLICES. SERVICES 10-12.

*I made this soup exactly as directed and decided it needed more color; so I added a small can of tomato sauce and a couple carrots, diced or sliced, to the soup. Back where I come from, we don’t add lemon slices; we DO add a tablespoon of Apple Cider vinegar to our individual bowls of bean soup, just before eating. Yum!

The Eisenhowers were partial to soup, too. Oxtail soup, cream of almond and cream of celery were a few favorites, along with Stone Crab Bisque, and cream of Artichoke soup.

It was well known that one of President Eisenhower’s own specialties which he prepared himself, was a vegetable beef soup. President Eisenhower was an amateur chef and enjoyed thumbing through cookbooks and experimenting with recipes. The President prided himself on his homemade soups but this detailed recipe for a plain vegetable soup was more than two pages in length! He began with some practical instructions for preparing chicken broth but ended with a rather unusual suggestion for garnishing the soup:

“The best time to make…soup is a day or so after you have had fried chicken and out of which you have saved the necks, ribs, backs, etc.—uncooked. As a final touch, in the springtime when the nasturtiums are green and tender, cut them up in small pieces; boil them separately and add them to your soup. (I have never seen nasturtiums mentioned in a recipe before!

According to Poppy Cannon in THE PRESIDENT’S COOKBOOK, President Eisenhower enjoyed making an old fashioned beef stew for sixty, with directions calling for 20 pounds of beef in 3 gallons of beef stock–You may not want to make a beef stew for sixty people (does anyone have a soup pot big enough?) but you might enjoy experimenting with President Eisenhower’s beef stew scaled down to feed six—-so to make President Eisenhower’s Beef Stew:

Beef for stew (1-2 pounds)
Butter or other shortening
Canned bouillon (or packaged beef bouillon cubes—1 beef bouillon cube with 1 cup of water equals one cup of beef stock)
Water
Bouquet Garni*
Small Irish potatoes
Carrots
White onions
Tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour

Brown 2 lbs beef cubes in 2 TBSP shortening, then add 2 cans bouillon and 1 can water. Simmer, covered, until meat is nearly tender. Add bouquet garni* and 12 potatoes, halved, 1 bunch carrots, cut in 1” lengths, 12 small white onions, 2 large tomatoes, cut in eighths, salt & pepper. Remove bouquet garni and drain off liquid. Return gravy to pot and cook over low heat until well thickened.

(Watch for sales on any cut of beef, such as 7-Bone or round bone roast. Cut the meat into cubes—its much easier than buying beef that has already been cut into cubes. Cook the bone-in in a pot of water to make your own beef stock.

*To make a bouquet garni (not Eisenhower’s instructions—these are my own—sls) I consulted the Grand Dame of cookbooks, Irma Rombauer who advises in JOY OF COOKING that a Bouquet Garni can vary in makeup but usually includes a bay leaf, thyme and parsley, basil, sweet marjoram, summer savory, celery or chervil. Tie the fresh or dried herbs in a bouquet made with 4” squares of cheesecloth. Tie the ends together and bind securely. Bouquets of dried herbs can be made in advance and kept in a tight fitting container, preferably one that is light-proof. You never use a bouquet garni more than once and add it only in the last half hour of cooking. Don’t be afraid to experiment and use herbs that your family enjoys.

Another similar bouquet garni is Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook calls for:

3 sprigs parsley
1 sprig celery or small stalk celery
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
9 peppercorns
2 whole cloves
**
The Kennedys were also soup eaters and one of their famous favorites was Hyannisport Fish Chowder which all of the Kennedys were said to enjoy. According to Francois Rysavy, who was the French Chef to the Kennedys, “The President was a ‘soup, sandwich and fruit’ man for lunch. His luncheon was almost bound to be soup.

To make President Kennedy’s Favorite New England Clam Chowder, South of Boston Style:

4 dozen medium hard-shelled clams
5 cups cold water
1 2-inch cube salt pork, diced*
1 large onion, chopped very fine
4 medium potatoes, diced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups milk, hot
1 ½ cups heavy cream, hot

Wash clams thoroughly. Place them in a deep pan with the cold water, covering the clams. Bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes or until shells open. Strain the broth thoroughly through cheesecloth and reserve. Remove clams from their shells; clean and chop. Combine salt pork and onion in a saucepan. Cook gently over low heat, about 3 minutes, do not brown. Add broth and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are render. Add clams. Remove from heat and slowly add milk and cream which has been heated. Serve immediately.

One of the recipes frequently mentioned in connection with Mrs. Kennedy was Boula Boula soup which contained (surprise!) turtle. Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup was served at the White House on United Nations Day. (However, the days of 300 pound turtles being presented to the White House are a thing of a past. White House Chef Rene Verdon provided a recipe for making Mrs. Kennedy’s Boula Boula soup substituting peas along with 2 cups canned green turtle soup but I don’t think you can find turtle ANY where anymore–Fresh, frozen or otherwise. Most turtles are an endangered species. In my own family, mock turtle soup—at one time (many years ago!) was made with the head of a cow—back in the days when the head of a cow was something you could order from the butcher; at some point in time, ground beef was substituted for the head of a cow.

To make President Kennedy’s favorite onion soup you will need:

3 medium onions, finely sliced
4 tbsp butter
1 TBSP flour
2 ½ pints beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
French bread
Shredded Swiss cheese
Additional butter

Cook the onions and butter in a heavy pot. When they are browned or translucent, sprinkle with flour. Allow to brown a little longer, then add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes. Slice the bread ¼” thick. Butter lightly and then brown in oven. Put the onion soup in casserole or serving dishes.

There are numerous published books written by the employees who worked in the White House; in the 1960s, I began collecting White House BOOKS, specifically memoirs by white house employees—not just those compiled by the White House chefs. One of the first that I found was Henrietta Nesbitt’s “The Presidential Cookbook”, published in 1951. Many of these books have a tendency to overlap with other White House cookbooks (sort of shades of which came first—the chicken or the egg).

That being said, the Martha Washington Cook Book does NOT contain a recipe for her Crab Bisque although Henrietta Nesbitt’s Presidential Cookbook contains a recipe titled Martha Washington’s Crab Soup (1951) repeated by Poppy Cannon, in The Presidents’ Cookbook (1968), repeated again by John R. Hanny in his Secrets from the White House Kitchens in 2001.

Henrietta Nesbitt was invited by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to go with them from Hyde Park to the White House as their housekeeper. Mrs. Nesbitt was at that time was well into her fifties and she would remain housekeeper for the next 13 years for the Roosevelts and one year with the Trumans.

I started searching for books by White House employees after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—there were numerous memoirs by JFK’s friends and employees close to him, as well as those who worked for Mrs. Kennedy (despite by being required by Mrs. Kennedy to sign an agreement NOT to write any memoirs about them.

Then once I really got underway in my search for White House memoirs, I discovered numerous published works by those employed by FDR or those who were personal friends of FDR and/or Eleanor.

Recently, I began to notice re-writes of those early books—presumably the copywrites have expired on those early memoirs. I purchased, from Amazon.com, a reprint of “White House Diary” by Henrietta Nesbitt, originally published by the author in 1948. I had an original edition of White House Diary and lost it somehow, so recently I ordered another copy from Amazon.com for my home library. I also ordered President Jimmy Carter’s “White House Diary” to supplement my original White House library. **

Poppy Cannon’s “the Presidents Cookbook” ends with the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was vice president at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. As vice president, LBJ was sworn in while on Air Force One flying back to Washington DC. No soup recipes are in Cannon’s final segment of presidents.

At the completion of the one term Johnson fulfilled as president, he announced he would not be seeking another term as president; he and Ladybird returned to Texas. Perhaps he felt those shoes of Kennedy’s were too big for him to fill.

My reference material is taken from books in my own library. Some years ago (1990s) I wrote a 4-part article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange on the White House, primarily by White House Employees. When it was complete and had been printed in four issues of the CCE, I then had the idea of compiling an article based on soup recipes favored by presidents and their wives.

Reference:

THE MARTHA WASHINGTON COOK BOOK (Recipes from the personal cookbook of Thomas Jefferson, by Marie Kimball, originally printed 1940

THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK, feeding the Roosevelts and their guests, copyright 1951 by Henrietta Nesbitt

THE MOUNT VERNON COOKBOOK compiled by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association copyright 1984

THE PRESIDENTS’ COOKBOOK, by Poppy Cannon, copyright 1968, covers presidents from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson.

SECRETS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHENS, by John R. Hanny copyright 2001

THE CARTER FAMILY FAVORITES COOKBOOK, COPYRIGHT 1976 BY Ceil Dyer

THE WHITE HOUSE CHEF COOKBOOK, copyright 1967 by Rene Verdon, over 500 recipes and menus by the man who was White House chef during the Kennedy years

–Sandra Lee Smith

BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP

(PART ONE

Beautiful soup so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for danties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

(From The Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland)

Is there anything quite like a bowl of hot soup? It nourishes and sustains us on a cold and wintry day. Nothing restores us quite like a bowl of hot soup, that COOLS us off, and what could be tastier, then, than a chilled bowl of gazpacho? Another soup served cold long ago was Senegalese Soup, made with chicken broth.

French peasants, for many centuries, recognized the value of having a soup pot simmering on the back of the stove every day. Any leftover bits of meat or vegetables were tossed into the soup kettle—nothing was ever wasted, A bowl of nourishing soup was available, then, at any time.
Decades ago, housewives knew the value of feeding a nourishing beef bouillon or chicken broth to an invalid. A pot or kettle of soup can be very simple—beef broth, for instance, can be very simple, or it can be hearty, like clam chowder or beef stew. Today’s thrifty cook knows she can toss bits and pieces of leftover meat and vegetables into a plastic container or zip lock bag and FREEZE them; when she is ready to make a pot of soup, she can just toss the leftover bits into a soup pot.

If you think of soup as just something that comes out of a can, you are in for a surprise! Homemade soup is one of the easiest, most nourishing foods you can possibly serve to your family…and it can be very, very inexpensive made from odds and ends of leftovers in your refrigerator from leftover pot roast or a ham bone—or simply by chopping up some fresh vegetables, adding a few beef or chicken bouillon cubes and whatever other seasonings you like.

When I was a little girl, vegetable soup was served at dinner (called supper when I was a child), first as a broth, sometimes with homemade noodles Then as an entrée, we had the potatoes, carrots and meat from the soup pot—while my father and brothers spread the cooked marrow on crackers.

It may surprise you to know that many American presidents were very partial to soups—enough so that history has left us a legacy of their soup preferences!

Our first president, George Washington, loved seafood and was especially partial to Martha Washington’s crab soup. According to Poppy Cannon in her book “The President’s Cookbook” it also became a favorite of FDR’s and President and Mrs. Eisenhower.

Many decades later, Martha Washington’s Crab Soup was served at the Senate Wives Red Cross Luncheon; First Lady Mrs. Ford like it so much that the recipe was sent to the White House chefs who were able to reproduce the crab soup to Mrs. Ford’s satisfaction, whereupon it became a Ford Family favorite.

(I would imagine that President Washington, with his ill-fitting dentures, found sops easier to eat and digest, too! George Washington had a favorite vegetable soup recipe also).

To Make Martha Washington’s Crab Bisque, you will need the following:

Enough crab to make ½ pound crabmeat
1 TBSP butter
1 ½ TBSP flour
3 hard-cooked eggs, mashed
Rind of 1 lemon, grated
Salt & pepper to taste
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup sherry
Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Boil enough crabs in salted water to make ½ lb crab meat. Combine the butter, flour, eggs, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Put the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour it slowly into the egg mixture. Now combine the crabmeat with the milk mixture and boil gently 5 minutes. Add the cream and take it off the stove before it comes to a full boil. Add sherry and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Serves 4-5.

Martha Washington also favored a Mexican black bean* soup; these recipes found their way into Martha’s manuscript cookbook. Quite possibly her recipe was given to her by President Jefferson, as he, too, had a favorite Mexican Black Bean Soup recipe. Martha obtained recipes from other notables of her times. Many years later, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Nixon were also partial to Black Bean Soup.

(*I think we have had a resurgence of black beans in the past few decades—I don’t recall seeing it—or any recipes calling for black beans when I was raising my children—sls)

The Martha Washington Cook Book offs quite a few other soup recipes, from making French Broth, to Barley Broth, French Pottage to a Gruel of French Barley.

One of our first presidents, Thomas Jefferson, was so fond of soups that he wrote an essay, “Observations on Soups”. Which reads “always observe to lay your meat in the bottom of the pan with a lump of butter. Cut the herbs and vegetables very fine and lay over the meat. Cover it close* and set over a slow fire. This will draw the virtue out of the herbs and roots and give the soup a different flavor from what it would have been putting the water in first…when the gravy produced from the meat is almost dried up. Fill your pan with water when your soup is done, take it up and when cool enough, skim of the grease quite clean. Put it on again to heat and then dish it up. When you make white soups never put in the cream until you take it off the fire. Soup is better the second day in cool weather. (“cover it close” may have meant with a tight fitting lid)

TO MAKE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON’S BLACK BEAN SOUP:

2 CUPS BLACK MEXICAN BEANS
2 ½ QUARTS WATER
2 LBS SHORT RIBS OF BEEF
SALT & PEPPER TO TASTE
1 CUP WINE
3 SLICES TOAST, MADE INTO CROUTONS
BUTTER

Wash beans and add to the water with the short ribs and seasonings. Boil over low flame 3-4 hours or until beans are soft. Remove meat, pour remainder through colander, pressing beans through. Remove to pot with small pieces of meat and stock; simmer about 10 minutes longer. Take from stove, add wine and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with croutons browned in butter. Serves 8-10.

President Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and fittingly one of his favorite soup recipes was Gumbo. Another favorite soup of President Jefferson’s was potato soup, as prepared by his cook at Monticello.

Yet another well-liked soup recipe of President Jefferson was pea soup, made, of course, with peas from his own garden. Every Monday at Monticello, tomato soup was served. Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, who shared his interest in recipes (call receipts back then) gave the recipe to Martha Washington. Yet another favorite recipe written by President Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph was a recipe for okra soup.

John Adams, like all early pioneering Americans, learned to use corn in many different ways. It was a legacy given to us by the American Indians. A favorite soup of President Adams was corn soup. Another favorite dish was succotash soup. Perhaps the Adams’, who spent some years living in Philadelphia, developed a taste for the Pennsylvania-Dutch corn soup. The following corn and tomato soup, with dumplings, is credited with Ohio origins…but it might have originated in Pennsylvania.

TO MAKE CORN AND TOMATO SOUP WITH DUMPLINGS:

A MEATY SOUP BONE
1 ONION, SLICED
SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE
A DOZEN EARS OF CORN
1 DOZEN TOMATOES
DUMPLINGS

Cover bone well with cold water. Add seasonings and onion. Shave off the grains of corn and also scrape out the pulp. Add to soup pot. Peel, then cut up the tomatoes. Add. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook slowly 3 hours.

TO MAKE DUMPLINGS

1 EGG
1 CUP SOUR MILK*
½ TSP SALT
FLOUR
½ TSP BAKING SODA

Beat egg slightly. Stir soda into milk and add. Mix in enough salted flour to make a very stiff batter. Drop into boiling soup from a teaspoon. Cover, and cook 20 minutes. Serve at once.

(*I take it for granted that everybody knows these things—but in case you don’t—to make sour milk, just add a teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk…wait a little bit and it will become “sour” milk).
**

Many presidents have enjoyed turtle or terrapin, according to White House history. One of the first presidents to receive a gift of turtle was President John Adams. A friend bestowed a 114 pound turtle upon the president.

In his diary, his son—John Quincy Adams—mentions that on a July 4th dinner served at the White House during Tyler’s administration, turtle soup was made from a turtle weighing 300 pounds, a present from Key West*

It is said that John Quincy Adams never failed to mention with whom he dined or how often, so that when he mentioned in his diary having eaten turtle at a dinner, it must have been an impressive occasion.

*More about turtles later!

Dolley Madison, considered for many decades to be the quintessential Washington hostess, served as hostess for Thomas Jefferson, who was widowed. Dolley, who left neatly handwritten notes containing her favorite recipes and home remedies, treated visitors—even drop-ins—with a bouillon laced with sherry. To make Dolley Madison’s hospitable bouillon, you will need:

4 lbs beef 1 veal knuckle
3 small carrots
2 turnips
1 pot hot pepper
3 small white onions
1 bunch parsley
5 quarts water
Sherry

Place all ingredients except the sherry in a large pot and simmer for 6 hours. Cool and strain.

Chef Rysavy, in a TREASURY OF WHITE HOUSE COOKING, tells us that Dolley liked to let her bouillon stand overnight before skimming off the fat. She would store the bouillon in a cool place and heat a portion of it as needed. Just before hot bouillon was served, a little sherry was added. Serves 20.

President Fillmore may not be well remembered by American historians (or school children) but he DID install the first real bathtub with centrally heated running water. His wife installed the first library in the White House while President Fillmore also installed the first real STOVE in the White House kitchen. Prior to that time, all the Fillmore cooking was done over open fireplaces. There is a story that the Fillmore cook was horrified at the idea of cooking on such a “thing” and that the President had to go visit the patent office to get detailed directions for operating it. But, like all new contraptions, once the white House staff got used to it, they couldn’t imagine getting along without it.

President Fillmore was a thrifty man – it seems only natural that one of HIS favorite soup recipes was an old fashioned vegetable beef soup which was more like a stew. Again, according to Ms. Cannon’s book “The Presidential Cookbook”, when President Fillmore’s soup was “…ready to serve, the solids were removed from the soup kettle to a platter. The soup was served first, consumed, then the soup bowls were re-filled with the meat and vegetables from the platter. (I wonder if my mother ever knew that her soup was served exactly the same way as the Fillmore presidential administration—I read that the president’s wife saw no reason to switch to clean plates after the broth had been eaten).

A favorite soup of Andrew Jackson’s was “Old Hickory Soup”, also a local favorite with natives of Jackson’s North Carolina. The recipe begins “Crack one gallon hickory nuts…”

Julia Tyler, wife of President John Tyler, seems to have been partial to a “torup” stew, torup being a variation of huge turtles that were native to the Eastern Shore of Long Island, where Julia grew up. (Julia was President Tyler’s second wife, and many years younger than he. The marriage created something of a stir in Washington. The “torup” stew was said to taste a lot like chicken. (I’ve heard that said about alligator, too—that it tastes like chicken.

Oyster stew and terrapin stew were listed amongst many other dishes listed on President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball menu. This was a bit of a far cry from President Lincoln’s first inaugural at which mock turtle soup was served.

While most food historians claim that President Lincoln had very little interest in food, it seems a fair assumption that turtle soup was a favorite dish, being served at both of President Lincoln’s inaugural celebrations. The President even planned the menu for his second inauguration. And even though historians claim that Mr. Lincoln was not interested in food or eating, it seems that he loved fruit pies and some of the ladies in Springfield shipped fruit pies to him—no small feat in the mid-1800s.

(I sometimes wonder if the president just didn’t like the way most foods were prepared for him. I grew up thinking I hated rice. I hate cabbage, I hate stewed rabbit. I didn’t really hate those foods; I hated the way they had been cooked. I was an adult living in California before I ever discovered that rice didn’t have to be cooked to a gluey-lumpy-pasty ball of gunk! I didn’t hate those foods; I hated the way my mother cooked them.

One of the best rice recipes served to us at a friend’s house was a rice pilaf that was outstanding. It was long after I met Bob that I discovered how delicious corned beef and cabbage could be, cooked gently in a slow-cooker, wedges of cabbage added in the last hour of cooking.

The Benjamin Harrisons were a soup loving family, with corn soup and fish chowder amongst their favorites. Another favorite served by Mrs. Harrison was “amber soup” which was a hot clear soup that she served at White House teas and receptions. It was made from both chicken and ham, along with assorted vegetables.

Teddy Roosevelt’s family, having a special interest in India and the Far East, were partial to a chilled Senegalese soup, made with chicken stock and curry but they also enjoyed a corn chowder. I did some searching for Senegalese Soup and found a recipe from 21 Restaurant, stating that theirs is one of the few places in this country where you can still find it. The classic garnish is diced poached chicken; this version substitutes chutney; to make Traditional Senegalese Soup you will need:

3 tart apples, such as granny smith
2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 carrots, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
¼ cup raisins
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 TBSP curry powder*
2 TBSP all purpose flour
8 cups chicken broth
1 TBSP canned tomato puree
½ cup heavy cream

Garnish: bottle mango chutney or poached chicken, diced
Peel and core apples and chop. In a heavy kettle, heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and cook apples, carrots, onion, raisins and garlic, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 10-12- minutes. Add curry powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth and tomato puree and simmer, covered, 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Stir in cream and salt to taste, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Cool soup and in a food processor or blender, puree in batches until smooth. Strain soup through a sieve into a large bowl and chill until cold, 2-3 hours. Garnish each serving with about ½ tsp chutney (or a small amount of diced, poached and chilled chicken cubes.)

*Personally, I’m not crazy about curry powder, so 3 tablespoons of curry powder would be too much for my palate —I would reduce this to one or two tablespoons curry powder, tops. – sls

(TO BE CONTINUED)

ACKNOWLEDGING MICHIGAN FRIENDS & KINFOLK – A FEW OF THEIR COOKBOOKS

When I started collecting cookbooks in 1965, I really didn’t know where to begin, aside from making frequent visits to used book stores. I didn’t know a thing about collecting cookbooks—but I had a 1961 Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker and I thought there must be more like this, “out there somewhere”.

I wrote a letter to Tower Press’ Women’s Circle magazine in 1965 (a magazine for penpals) and mentioned being interested in buying, or trading for church or club cookbooks. Over 200 women responded to my request and I was kept busy for several months, buying cookbooks sight unseen or trading things like S&H Green Stamps – or whatever else the writer wanted. Many of those first cookbooks were remarkably good finds.

The best thing about that letter in Women’s Circle in 1965 was a letter from a woman in Michigan. She was a cookbook collector and she helped me find cookbooks; we became – and remained – friends; our children grew up, married, had children of their own. I went through a divorce and my Michigan friend lost her husband. A few months ago, she began downsizing to move into a smaller place, and has sent me boxes of books – not just cookbooks but other books as well, books about lighthouses (another pet interest of mine) and books about survivors of WW2. My cup runneth over.

After giving this a great deal of reflection, I thought that the best way I can show my appreciation for all that she has given to me – is by writing about some of these books.
I’m not sure whether I have more California church and club cookbooks or more if those from Michigan. The problem with counting the Michigan cookbooks is that they aren’t all in the same place – two of my largest bookcases are divided up as “east of the Mississippi” and “west of the Mississippi”. I know, probably sounds dumb but it SEEMED like a fairly good idea when I first came up with it. I have kept all of my California cookbooks together – currently they fill two bookcases in my bedroom and are double-rowed.

Sometimes I have to take everything off the shelves to find a particular book. Before we moved to this house in 2008, I was in a much larger house and had the California cookbooks divided into two parts – Northern California and Southern California. Now they are all mixed up. (One of these days I’ll get them sorted again).

In a bookcase in our spare bedroom, I have all the southern cookbooks filling up two bookcases on one wall and on the other wall, I have all of my Ohio cookbooks (separate from East of the Mississippi) because I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a separate collection of cookbooks from Cincinnati. Then I began putting the Michigan cookbooks on a shelf underneath the Ohio ones (although technically speaking, Michigan is ABOVE Ohio, not below it) – sometimes the sizes of books has a lot to do with how you file them on your shelves.

Well, as you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. Since I first posted “Battered, Tattered, Stained church and club cookbooks”, I have been going through a lot of my books trying to determine which ones would generate the most interest. Then I thought it would be nice to have a discussion on California cookbooks since they are one of my favorites. (The other favorite are my Cincinnati club and church cookbooks.)

But before I do that, I think I owe it to my friend Betsy to tell you about some of the Michigan cookbooks. In addition to having had a Michigan penpal for over 45 years, I also have a brother who lived in Michigan for several decades, and two of his offspring have chosen to remain in the Wolverine State.

I visited Betsy twice in the 1970s – thanks to her kindhearted husband who drove several hundred miles to Cincinnati to take me and my children to Michigan to spend a week with them-one of the most delightful experiences, back then, was going to the flea markets where you would find all sorts of old cookbooks, often priced for as little as ten cents each. But, my brother and his wife hosted a family reunion there one year, and I have made perhaps half a dozen trips to Michigan over the years; twice to visit my mother who was in a nursing home in Grand Rapids, once for my goddaughter’s high school graduation, once for my sister Becky and I to drive around Lake Michigan, searching for Light Houses. Whenever I am in Michigan, I want to find the book stores.

The year that my niece Julie was graduating from high school, her sister Leslie drove me to Ann Arbor – where Leslie had gone to college – and we had a wonderful afternoon searching out used book stores as well as the ones selling new books – particularly cookbooks.

One of the cookbooks I bought that year, 1994, was “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” published by the Ronald McDonald House with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. This is a thick spiral-bound cookbook with over 700 prized recipes. You may find yourself reading recipes for days but one I found outstanding is named “Sue’s Cheerios Snack”. Considered a great snack for tailgate parties, this is easy to make and would be a great snack for the kiddies too:

Pam cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick solid type margarine or butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 cups cheerios* cereal
1 cup Spanish peanuts
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 9×13” pan with Pam. Combine Cheerios, peanuts and raisins in pan. In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt until bubbly around the edges. Cook 2 minutes more (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda . Pour over cereal mixture. Mix well. Bake 20 minutes. Turn immediately onto wax paper. Let Cool.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: When “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” was published in 1994, we only had the one kind of Cheerios. I have been thinking this would be great to try with the chocolate Cheerios or the cinnamon flavored version. Bon Appétit!

At the time I posted this article in 2011, I did some checking on Amazon.com—you can buy Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II for as little as 59 cents (plus will be charged $3.99 shipping & handling from private vendors; they are also listing 2 new copies for $9.49. There are numerous other listings you can find on Google for this cookbook. I have been unable to verify whether or not you can still order copies from the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor. Maybe someone will know and enlighten me. **

One of my favorite Michigan cookbooks was not published by a church, club or any other organization –but it’s such a keeper, it deserves a spot on this post. The title of the cookbook is “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” by Larry B. Massie and Priscilla Massie.

From “Watermelon Pickles and Watermelon Cake we learn that “The Massies are a husband and wife team specializing in Michigan history. Larry co-authored with Peter Schmitt “KALAMAZOO: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS” and “BATTLE CREEK: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS.” His other publications include “FROM FRONTIER FOLK TO FACTORY SMOKE” “MICHIGANS FIRST CENTURY OF HISTORICAL FICTION”, “VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” “COPPER TRAILS AND IRON RAILS”, “MORE VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” and “WARM FRIENDS AND WODE SHOES: A PICTORAL HISTORY OF THE HOLLAND AREA.”

Priscilla was born in Kalamazoo in 1955 and traces her Michigan ancestry to Michel Campau, one of the one hundred Frenchmen who founded Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Priscilla’s research, photographic, word processing and culinary skills allow the Massies to participate in a wide range of Michigan history projects…” What wouldn’t I give to visit that century old schoolhouse and see the Massies collections!

I don‘t know HOW many times I’ve reached for this book to check some piece of information–It’s been a favorite reference book for many years. Subtitled “A CENTURY OF MICHIGAN COOKING”, this hard-cover with a spill-resistant cover was published in 1990 by Wayne State University Press in Detroit. And what the two Massies have done is provided recipes from church and club cookbooks dating back in some instances prior to 1900. The book is generously laced with drawings or illustrations of old-timey kitchen utensils – but one of my favorite features, I admit it freely, was the number of rhymed recipes including one my oldest finds for The Kitchen Poets, “Eve’s Pudding” dating from Detroit in 1878. One I will spare directions for is Perfect Mock Turtle Soup that starts out “Get a calf’s head with the skin on (the fresher the better) and before you say ew, ew, I want to add that an authentic MOCK turtle soup was commonly made with a calf’s head when real turtle was unavailable.

In the introduction, the Massies explain how their interest in old books was cultivated and grew from very early ages. They married and moved into an old one-room schoolhouse located in the midst of the Allegan State Forest. “Crowded within the main part of the structure is our collection of thirty thousand books, thirteen-foot high bookshelves surround all sides of a vast room. More shelves in the center of the room support a loft where Larry studies and writes about Michigan history…”

Priscilla has an attached room with a “Hoosier” cabinet (I had one when I was first married and didn’t have the sense to keep it before we moved to California); her kitchen cabinet was built in 1910 and is flanked on one side by a GE “monitor top” refrigerator made in 1932 and on the other, an electric range of similar vintage. They love history so much that they have surrounded themselves with period household furnishings.

Priscilla has antique kitchen utensils, cast-iron Griswold pots and pans and other domestic artifacts hang everywhere. The Massies have fulfilled the dictate to write about what you know the most about. More than thirteen hundred recipes from Michigan’s past are in this volume, dating from 1820s through the end of WW2.

“Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake” contains SO many recipes – and I think I copied most of the rhymed recipes when I was compiling the Kitchen Poets.

I have gone through this cookbook over and over, trying to decide which recipe to feature. I chose “Pickled Grapes” because I have seen pickled grape recipes featured on websites and blogs recently – as though a brand-new recipe. I made up a batch and it WAS new to me – but “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon cake have it dated 1899 by a Mrs. McCall in Kalamazoo!

To make Pickled Grapes:

Take grapes fresh from the stems without breaking and put them in a jar. For 7 pounds of grapes, take one quart vinegar, 3 pounds of sugar*, 1 TBSP whole cloves and the same of cinnamon bark. Boil it all together a few minutes, then let it cool until you can bear your finger in it; pour over the grapes, turn a plate over them; set them in a cool cellar and they are done. Do not cook the grapes nor heat the pickle over. If properly prepared they will keep a year and be as plump and fresh as when picked from the vines.

Well, I don’t have a cellar, and here in the high desert it can be a problem finding a spot cool enough. When I made sauerkraut about a year ago, we kept the crock in the coolest section of our garage which is in Bob’s workshop (attached behind the garage) and that worked – but I was making the kraut in March when it’s still relatively cool in the Antelope Valley.

If you want to make the pickled grapes you can keep them very well if you have a cellar or basement. If not, make them while the weather is still fairly cool.

*Sandy’s cooknote: 2 cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound, so you would need 6 cups of sugar to equal 3 pounds. 4 cups of vinegar equals one quart.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake”, the best prices I have found are on Amazon.com. They have pre-owned copies starting under $29.81 (higher than the prices I found listed in 2011)

Another good Michigan cookbook is “OUR BEST TO YOU” compiled by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1984. This cookbook is in a specially designed 3-ring binder that enables the reader to open the rings in case you want to put the page on the refrigerator door so you can make a recipe. The pages measure just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length. I haven’t been able to find any pre-owned copies in the most frequently websites that I visit. My guess is that it’s out of print and you may have to do some digging to find a copy. However, you don’t have to search very far for this easy Beef Brisket recipe:

1 4-5 pound beef brisket
Seasoned salt
Pepper
Dried minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash brisket thoroughly and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Brown in an open pan (I use a large cast iron skillet for this) for 30 minutes in the oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 1 hour. Layer the sliced onion over the meat and continue roasting an additional hour. Add water and cover, roast 1 hour more. Check for tenderness. Cool slightly and slice.

Note: Brisket may be prepared in advance. Reheat in pan juices before serving ~~~

Also published in 1984 and using the same format – the 3-ring binder that measures just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length is from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan and bears the title “Temptations.” In its Introduction we learn that the inspiration for the cookbook was based on the bounty of Michigan’s agriculture. The book contains over 500 recipes and here is a simple recipe from “Temptations” that is called Sesame Potato Spears. I love potato recipes that are not fried but are just as good if not better. This is the recipe for Sesame Potato Spears:

6 to 8 potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted (that would be half of one stick of butter)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup Dijon mustard (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut into long strips. Melt butter in a loaf baking dish and stir in seasonings. Stir the potatoes to coat. Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour or until tender.
(Sandy’s cooknote: I am inclined to put the melted butter and seasonings into a plastic zip-lock bag and then put the potatoes on a Pam-sprayed baking sheet that you have covered with foil. That is how I make my baked fries.

Note: Dijon mustard will give it an extra tang. ~~

“Temptations” is still available on Amazon.com – They have 4 new copies available from $5.43 and 5 used copies starting at $2.87. ~

A third cookbook compiled in a 3 ring binder just under 6½”wide and just under 9½” in length that is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks is titled “THE HOUSE ON THE HILL” which is a bed and breakfast inn, published in 2002 by Cindy and Tom Tomalka. The Tomalkas tell us they have had over 3000 couples and singles visit the Inn since April 1997—who have consumed over 14,000 breakfasts.

You won’t believe all the recipes just for making muffins – now muffins are a favorite recipe of mine – and it was a muffin recipe I was following the first time I made muffins using my mother’s big yellow bowl – which I dropped and broke when I was about ten years old. Muffins can be sweet or savory and a simple muffin is ideal for a young child to make when they are cooking for the first time. Here is a recipe for Michigan Maple Syrup Muffins:

2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup butter, melted (*1/2 cup butter is one stick)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, syrup and butter. Gradually pour this egg mixture into a well I the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir quickly. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overbeat or muffins will be tough. Spoon into greased mini-muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 30 mini-muffins.
The House on the Hill Inn has its own website with information on ordering a copy of their oh-so-inviting cookbook. You can write to the Tomalkas at innkeeper@thehouseonthehill.com.

Another spiral bound cookbook published in 1983 is “CULINARY COUNTERPOINT” published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Cookbook. This cookbook offers some recipes with unforgettable names, such as Hanky Pankys, Blinking Star, and Strip and go Naked! The recipe for a Ohio culinary treasure is BUCKEYE BALLS. (You will find Buckeye Balls at many sweet shops throughout Ohio – maybe Michigan too). To make Buckeye Balls you will need:

3 1-pound boxes powdered sugar
2 lbs smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 pound butter, softened
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ stick paraffin

Combine the sugar, peanut butter and butter and beat well. Roll into small balls and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Melt the chocolate with the paraffin I the top section of a double boiler over hot water. Stick a toothpick in one of the peanut butter balls, then dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden. Repeat until all candies have been dipped in the chocolate. Makes about 60 candies.
Amazon.com has five copies for sale, starting at $5.98.

Another spiral-bound favorite is “Renaissance Cuisine” that went through three printings by the time I found it. This cookbook was the endeavor of The Fontbonne Auxiliary of St Joseph Hospital. The Fontbonne Auxiliary was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Nazareth in 1947,
I am often stymied when it comes to choosing just one recipe from a church or club cookbook-but the following might be good for company or something to getting cooking when you are home from the office and trying to get something cooking while you make up a salad to go with. Here is Chicken No Peek Casserole:

1 cup rice, uncooked
6 chicken breasts or pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 cup sherry
Slivered almonds

Grease a 9×13” pan. Place rice on bottom, place chicken on top of the rice. In a separate container, mix the mushroom soup and water and pour that over the chicken. Pour Sherry over chicken Sprinkle onion soup and slivered almonds over all. bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Do not peek. A fresh fruit or cranberry mold completes this meal.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: nowhere does the recipe advise you to cover the dish with foil before baking in the oven – but then it tells you not to peek. I would interpret that to mean it needs to be covered with foil. Someone else might interpret to mean not to look into the oven while it’s baking.)

Renaissance Cuisine is available on Amazon.com new or pre-owned starting at $1.59—and 4 new copies starting at $.43; you can’t beat that!

Although I have many more Michigan church and club cookbooks, most are probably not available on the internet. I tried to stick to cookbooks interested readers might have a chance to find.

Happy cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting!

Sandy

This was originally posted on my blog in 2011! prices for the cookbooks mentioned may be lower.

THE 75 BEST BOOKS (REVISITED)

A recent article in my PARADE* magazine caught my attention; this one by writer Ann Patchett is titled “THE 75 BEST BOOKS OF THE PAST 75 YEARS”.

Well, I’m sure you can imagine—I begged to differ. I rarely read books that are on best seller lists—I pick & choose what I find interesting.

When Parade asked Patchett to compile a list of the best 75 books to celebrate the magazine’s 75th anniversary, her first response was, “Not a chance!” –She says she could picture the mountains of furious letters complaining about all the great works of literature she’d left off. But when she asked the staff at Parnassus Books, the Nashville store she co-owns with Karen Hayes, to take it on as a group project, they agreed.

What they discovered in the process is how wildly they disagreed about everything, except how much they loved books. “We wanted novels, sure”, she writes, “but we also wanted picture books, science books, histories and young adult novels. We wanted things that were old, like “The Old Man and the Sea”, but also things that were hot off the press, like “When Breath Becomes Air” (which I am totally unfamiliar with).

Patchett continues, “The most important thing about creating any list is figuring out ways to narrow it down, so we decided to choose 75 books from just the last 75 years (sorry, Grapes of Wrath, you just missed the cut) and books written only by North Americans, because if we opened it up to the world we would miss plenty of gems out of sheer ignorance and wind up with a lot more than 75 books!”

She says “that seemed like a reasonable solution until we realized that meant leaving off Harry Potter, a deal breaker for half of our staff, so we defaulted to books written in English.
Behold, a mash-up of a list that exemplifies the passionate convictions of 17 booksellers. Are they the best 75 books from the past 75 years? Judge for yourself…”.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945)

“This book is so perfectly executed—literature at its most engaging. When I think about so many of the books on this list, I’m also thinking about the books that didn’t get on. Personally, I love “A Handful of Dust” slightly more than “Brideshead”, but I was outvoted.”

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (1949)
“This book belongs to no era. It’s pure wisdom.”

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
“This book is on the list because Mary Laura Philpot, who’s in charge of our online literary magazine, Musing, pretty much said she’d quit if we didn’t include The End of the Affair and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. We all had books that we refused to be flexible on. Greene’s body of work is both large and wildly diverse: There are the political Greene novels, the comic Greene novels, the romantic Greene novels. If you’re just picking one, it’s not going to be representative of his entire body of work, so in the end we went with the one Mary Laura loved best. I have to say, I completely agree with her.”

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger (1953)
Writes Patchett “Nine Stories is a book I’ve gone back to at different moments in my life, and I always find something new. I’ve passionately loved different stories at different times, first “Teddy,” later “For Esmé—With Love and Squalor.” I could list all of them. It’s also the most perfectly balanced collection of stories I know. There are no weak links. The Catcher in the Rye is a great book when you’re a kid, and Franny and Zooey is a great book when you’re in your 20s, but Nine Stories can see you through your entire life.”

Books in the 1960s:
“America was so vulnerable in the ’60s. I think of the pain that the country suffered through because of the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement–it tore our hearts open, and that openness is the place from which great art is often made.”

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (1961)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
“These two books make a nice pairing because, in extremely different ways, they’re books about women finding their art and their daring. Plath and Child both test themselves to see what they’re capable of, and that set the tone not only for the ’60s but for the rest of our lives.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
“This book was the guide to the ’70s. The world as we had known it in the ’50s was finished. Who knew what was coming? This is the book that says everything we used to know is gone, but what’s up ahead may be a lot cooler than anything we could have ever imagined.”

Maus by Art Spiegelman (1980)
“The first graphic novel to address a serious subject—one of the first graphic novels for adults I had ever seen, this book made us look at one of the most painful and widely documented atrocities in history with fresh eyes. Maus made us think again. Its influence has certainly been clear in the rise of graphic novels, but I think it’s spread throughout all art forms, going all the way up to the play Hamilton. How can the artist make his audience fully experience history? Present it in the most unexpected way.”

The Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling (1997–2007)
“The Harry Potter phenomenon was and still is incredibly uplifting because it turned children into readers. It gave them a profound connection to characters, and that nearly rabid need to know what was coming next. The readers and the characters grew up together, and the passion for the books spread to the parents and then to the next generation. Any child who grew up reading Harry Potter knows that she is fully capable of later reading something like Great Expectations, because she’s had that experience of losing herself in great big books.”

On Writing by Stephen King (1999)
“It would be impossible for a bunch of booksellers to decide on their favorite Stephen King novel, but we all agreed On Writing should make the list. You don’t need to be a King fan, a horror fan, or someone who wants to write to love this book (though Stephen King’s horror fans who want to write will be deeply satisfied). It’s just a great book about determination, and how the past shapes us, and how the love and support of a single person can make all the difference. It’s also the best explanation of addiction, and overcoming addiction, that I’ve ever read.”
(I don’t consider myself much of a Stephen King fan—with the exception of some of his early works, in particular “Four Seasons” – four short stories which all, I believe, were made into films–sls)

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (2005)
“Some people feel intimidated by David Foster Wallace’s books, and some of his books can be intimidating. By adding Consider the Lobster to this list, we’re suggesting a book that shows Wallace’s brilliance at its very best while still being accessible. This is a very funny book, very manageable, but the writing is never less than dazzling. He continually asks us if we’re thinking about what we’re doing, because he’s thinking about what he’s doing every second.”

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (2016)
“The book grabs the reader from the opening pages and never lets go. That’s why it’s so perfect for right now. There are so many demands on our time and attention, and Elizabeth Strout actually gets our attention, all of it, by simply and directly telling us an unforgettable story.”

I DID agree with Ms. Patchett on a few titles—one of the first for 1940 is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (no relation) published in 1943. Several other titles are unfamiliar to me, despite my lifetime of being an avid reader, moving from membership to various libraries to buying bags of books in the bi-annual library sales.

While many bookstores, to my dismay, have gone out of business, all you have to do is attend just one of the Friends of the Library book sales to discover that people are—despite the death of bookstores—still reading books. And I’m guessing that most of the books we purchase from the pre-owned selections at Amazon.com are from used bookstores that are finding customers throughout the country with this format.

The selections from Pachett for the 1950s are partially familiar (“The Old Man and the Sea” by Hemingway, “Charlotte’s Web” (E.B. White), “The Once and Future King” by T.H.White, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov—I haven’t read any of Patchett’s 1950s selections and don’t plan to go into Amazon.com and look for any of them. Included in 1950s as well was “Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger” I remember struggling through “Catcher in the Rye” by Salinger—yikes! In my honest opinion, best sellers of the 1950s also left much to be desired.

Pachett moves on to the 1960s—certainly I was an avid reader by this time. I scoured used book stores and thrift shops in downtown Cincinnati. Listed by Pachett for the 1960s? “Night” by Elie Wiesel, “The Rabbit Angstrom” by John Updike, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I didn’t buy/read Julia Child’s cookbook in the 1960s—but I DID buy and read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and at some point in time, I also saw the film version starring Gregory Peck.

I now have several copies of “The Art of French Cooking” and have given most of my French cookbooks to my niece in Seattle, who – along with her husband – love French cooking.

Around in 1960 or ’61, my father brought home several copies of a Methodist church cookbook that he purchased from a co-worker at Formica, for a dollar each. My mother got a copy as well as my sister Becky and myself. That was really the introduction to church and club cookbooks for me. I tried many of the local Cincinnati recipes and began to wonder if there might be other church or club cookbooks such as this one. It was an awakening for me.

In 1961 we—husband Jim, one year old son, Michael, and I–moved to California, returning to Ohio in 1963 to await the birth of second son Steve. When Steve was four months old, we—now a family of four-returned to California, driving a treacherous route covered with snow and ice until we reached the middle of Texas. I had begun to collect books but my tastes were selective at this time.

I began buying used books (fiction novels, mostly) wherever I could find them cheap. I began reading whatever I could find. I remember going through all of Agatha Christie’s novels, paperbacks bought for ten cents each at a used book store on Lankershim Boulevard, when Michael was a toddler. We had an apartment on Sara Street. I walked to this book store with Michael in a stroller—at ten cents each, I could buy ten of Agatha Christie’s mysteries for a dollar.

Thinking back, I had a small bookcase in my bedroom when I was a teenager. My first books of my own were five Nancy Drew mysteries, a Christmas present from my brother Jim. I was probably ten or eleven at the time.

When I was still a pre-teen, I accompanied my Uncle Cal to the drug store on Carl Street to pick up a prescription for my mother. I picked up a paperback copy of the Diary of Anne Frank and sensing my interest, my uncle bought the book for me. I read it over and over, until the pages fell out of the book. It was the first non-fiction book I had ever read (years later I collected everything I could find about Anne Frank.)

I remember finding a copy of GONE WITH THE WIND at my grandmother’s, when a family she rented the second floor to disappeared without paying the rent, leaving behind an assortment of things. That copy of GONE WITH THE WIND was amongst those discards. GWTW was the very first unabridged novel that I read, up to that point. I think I was about fifteen years old. And, I had to read GWTW half a dozen times to really “get” it—I had to grow into Margaret Mitchell’s account of love, life and the American Civil War.

I also remember reading PEYTON PLACE as a teenager, which was considered scandalous and not suitable reading for good Catholic girls. Everybody was reading it (by later standards, PEYTON PLACE was actually pretty tame.) It should be noted that neither GWTW or Peyton Place made the list in Ann Patchett’s list.

By the time I became an adult and was buying books left and right, now scouring used book stores in the San Fernando Valley—I had acquired some of my favorite authors.

An early favorite author was Shirley Jackson, whose novels I read and collected. Then I discovered Janice Holt Giles and along with girlfriend Connie, we searched for HER published novels. Also early on, I discovered Ardyth Kennelly and made a diligent search for her books (unfortunately, Ardyth only wrote four or five novels and I was never able to discover why her writing career was cut short).

As for Shirley Jackson, she was the author I tried hardest to emulate—she could write bone-chilling mysteries such as “The Haunting of Hill House” (which was made into a movie) – or side-splitting humor such as her autobiographical Life Among the Savages” and “Raising Demons” which may have become offensive to her four children when they were old enough to know that they were the subject of those two books.

In 1965 I began to collect cookbooks – but none were purchased NEW—I began buying church and club cookbooks with assistance from a new Michigan penpal, Betsy, who also collected cookbooks.

Vacation trips with my sons to Cincinnati in the first half of the 1970s led to trips in downtown Cincinnati to scour the used bookstores to search for club and church cookbooks from various groups throughout Cincinnati but from neighboring Kentucky and Indiana as well. One year we returned to California by greyhound bus because you could ship up to five large boxes of books back to southern California without any additional fees.

In 1977, I returned to work full time, ending the summer vacations in Cincinnati.
As I got older, many of the titles of favorite authors became easier to find, thanks to the Internet.

When I bought a house in 2008 and despite giving away truckloads of books to the Burbank Friends of the Library, I filled over 600 boxes with books and other belongings n(such as cookie jars and recipe boxes) while my son Kelly made weekend trips from the San Fernando Valley to the Antelope Valley, then transferred all the boxes of books to my new garage once we moved into our new home.

In 2010, my housemate, Bob, built a library out of half of my garage space—cookbooks filled all the bookshelves inside the house, and my collections of fiction, collections of First Ladies and Presidents went into the new library; I unpacked boxes of books as fast as Bob put up shelves. And despite all the newly found book space, I donated more than five large boxes of books to the Lancaster Friends of the Library.

At last I had enough shelf space to put all of titles by favorite authors into alphabetical order (with the exception of my absolutely favorite authors, who are in a bookcase in my bedroom) so that I can tell you that favorite authors range from Maeve Binchy and Gwen Bristow to Michael Connolly and Patricia Cornwell, Harlan Coben and Jeffrey Deaver to Janice Holt Giles and Norah Lofts, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, from John Sandford to John Steinbeck—who I was late in discovering after a trip to Monterey Bay with a girlfriend.

In more recent years, I discovered—and fell in love with—books by Robert Morgan, starting with The Hinterlands, as well as the body of works by Adriana Trigiani. I think my love for American pioneer fiction started with Janice Holt Giles but is still going strong today with pioneer fiction by Robert Morgan and Adriana Trigiani.

In the past few years, I have begun downsizing some of my books, primarily to provide shelf space for other favorite titles—easily a lot more than seventy five. 

–Sandra Lee Smith

*for the unfamiliar, Parade is a leaflet of perhaps half a dozen pages that appears in my L.A. Times Sunday newspaper.

THE ORIGINS OF WEIRD RECIPES

You have to stop and wonder, sometimes, about the origins of some recipes. I can imagine how some of them might have come about—I can picture myself making a chocolate cake and suddenly realizing I don’t have enough eggs or oil. I might think hmmmm, mayonnaise is made up from oil and eggs—I wonder if I can just substitute half a cup of mayo for the missing oil and eggs—and voila! I’ve just created chocolate mayonnaise cake.

This makes perfect sense to me. And in case you are wondering, the recipe is very good. Equally delicious are chocolate mayonnaise cookies—I took them to work a few times and was almost embarrassed to divulge the recipe. What could be easier? Chocolate cake mix, some mayonnaise and one or two other ingredients.

But sauerkraut cake? Somehow I just can’t picture the lady of the kitchen thinking, gee, I don’t have any coconut for my coconut cake—maybe I’ll just open up a can of sauerkraut and rinse it off and no one will ever know it isn’t coconut…I certainly wouldn’t risk ruining a recipe I had already started, with an ingredient that is so totally off the wall. And what about avocado cake or pinto bean cake? What were those culinary artists THINKING?

You have to wonder about tomato soup cake too (granted, it’s delicious) – but whose idea was it to throw in a can of tomato soup to make a spice cake? Was it someone experimenting in the Campbell Soup Kitchen, or a housewife with a little too much time on her hands? (No one seems to know the origin of tomato soup cake although it does appear in some of the older Campbell Soup cookbooks). Note: the oldest reference I have found for tomato soup cake is in a 1940 cookbook.

There are a lot of off the wall (i.e. weird) recipes. Enough that in 1977 a local (Southern California) radio show host, Geoff Edwards of KMPC in Los Angeles, put together a cookbook of wacky recipes and titled it “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING COOKBOOK”. Listeners sent in the recipes. All of the above were included—although I have seen them all elsewhere—and then some. There is even an authentic recipe for stuffed Roast Camel. Geoff said it was served sometimes at Bedouin weddings. Ew, Ew. That ranks right up there with Spam mousse, as far as I am concerned. I’ll take your word for it that it’s delicious. (Per Google, Tang is a sweet and tangy, orange-flavored, non-carbonated soft drink can be found at Tops, Wegmans, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aide, Walmart, and Target—so it’s STILL available.)

As for tomato soup cake AKA Mystery Cake this appears to have originated in the 1920s when cake was usually topped off with Philadelphia Cream Cheese frosting and we all have to admit, that’s pretty good frosting. I especially like the cream cheese frosting with carrot cake—and although most of us have become accustomed to carrot cake and zucchini bread—don’t you have to wonder whose idea it was to toss these things into cake batter in the first place? That was before we took up gardening and discovered how zucchini can take over a back yard garden patch and your life. You have to DO something with all those squashes—friends and neighbors will only take so many zucchinis even if you resort to leaving them wrapped in a baby blanket on their front porch. (I once delivered a large zucchini wrapped in a baby blanket to a co-worker). And whether you make zucchini bread or cake – either, I guarantee, is delicious. One of my favs is a chocolate zucchini cake and as a result of the zucchinis taking over our back yard, I began collecting zucchini recipes until I had filled a recipe box with them.

Do you suppose that the lady (or man) of the kitchen was thinking – well, carrot or zucchini worked pretty good in a cake – I wonder what will happen if I try adding red beets – and invented Harvard Beet Spice Cake? Or was it just some exhausted mother tired of trying to talk her kids into eating their veggies? I know how that can go. I raised four picky eaters. They got it from their father, King of the Picky Eaters. I often resorted to subterfuge. I dearly loved a fish almondine recipe that my penpal Betsy, in Michigan, once sent to me. The fish was topped off with slivered or shaved almonds. No one in my household would eat almonds in a “food dish” though. So I blended the almonds with bread crumbs and used it as a topping over the fish. They never knew.

So, do you suppose that the original creator of pink beet cake was some harried housewife, exhausted from trying to get her kids to eat their veggies, so she dumped a can of red beets into the cake batter and thought to herself hmmm, there’s more than one way to…. Et al.
And every time I think I have said all I need to say on a subject, I happen to come across something else. While sorting through an overflow of cookbooks (I am always sorting through an overflow of cookbooks), I found one that looked interesting and hadn’t read…a book titled CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE by Al Sicherman. CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE was published in 1988 by Harper & Row.
The author joined the Minneapolis Star & Tribune in 1968. A copy editor since 1981, Siherman has been writing articles for the food section of the Star & Tribune. Mr. Sicherman is a kindred spirit, the kind of person who ALSO wondered about pinto beans and avocadoes turning up in your cake batter. He wrote a piece called “Things that go bump in the Oven” and speculated how Catherine Hanley ever came up with the Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe—he even called her up to ask—and he wonders about things like Impossible Pies (which we all know and love). Well, all of us who are well versed in, and collect the Pillsbury Bake-Off books, know the Tunnel of Fudge story and it appears that Impossible Pies were an accident, created by some unknown person.

(I thought the first Impossible Pie was an impossible coconut pie—the recipe appeared in a 1974 Cheviot (Ohio) PTA cookbook that my sister Becky was involved in creating. Here’s what I uncovered sleuthing on Google:

The origins of Impossible Pie (aka mystery pie, coconut amazing pie) are sketchy at best. A survey of newspaper/magazine articles suggests this recipe originated in the south (where coconut custard pies are popular). It was “discovered” by General Mills (Bisquick) and General Foods, who capitalized on the opportunity to promote their products. Corporate recipes surfaced in the mid-1970s. There are conflicting reports about the dates of introduction. The earliest recipe we have on file was published in 1968. None of the ingredients are name-brand.
This article sums up the situation best:

“Amazing. Mysterious. It could be none other than Impossible Pie, one of the most successful corporate recipe projects in the U.S. food-marketing history. Versions of Impossible Pie were also named Mystery Pie or Amazing Coconut Pie. By any name, though, Americans took to the easy recipe that is adaptable for making both sweet dessert pies and savory meat, vegetable and cheese pies. Back when quiche was trendy, the Impossible Pie formula called for ingredients similar to those for quiche yet eliminated the need to make a separate pastry crust…Not one but two huge food corporations benefited by popularizing the simple recipe formula for the Impossible Pie mixtures: the two big “Generals.” One was the Minneapolis-based General Mills, home of mythical Betty Crocker and maker of Bisquick all-purpose baking mix. The other was General Foods of White Plains, N.Y., marketer of Angel Flake processed coconut…The real mystery: Where did this recipe originate? We know the two “Generals” took a basic formula and then developed variations to showcase their respective products. Lisa Van Riper, spokeswoman for Kraft General Foods, said the company’s well-advertised recipe for Amazing Coconut Pie, “was developed as a result of a creative adaptation of the Bisquick Impossible Pies. We took a Bisquick Impossible Pie and did a creative twist by adding coconut, raisins and some other things. That was developed in June 1976 by our test-kitchen’s task force from a recipe submitted by various sources. Essentially that source was the Bisquick Impossible Pie. The Amazing Coconut Pie recipe also forms its own crust–with the baking mix sinking to the bottom of a custard mixture–and has been used ever since 1976, according to Van Riper. General Mills’ Marcia Copeland, director of Betty Crocker foods and publications, recalls that “we first saw the recipe for (crustless) coconut custard pies in Southern community cookbooks.” So it was a grass-roots recipe first, origin unknown. Some very old community cookbooks contain pie recipes that make their own crusts just from flour; others call for homemade biscuit mix. Copeland said that the Impossible Pie phenomenon lasted from the late 1970s through the 80s…

And now you know the rest of the story. But let me add that I have friends who are still making impossible pies. Last year, I copied a bunch of the recipes and sent them to a girlfriend.
Back to CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE: Sicherman asked “Did you ever wonder, when you were eating a piece of bread, how in the world anybody figured out what yeast would do what it does in there? Or have you ever wondered what caveman reasoned that smashing a chicken egg into some other stuff would be anything but peculiar? (or how many times he did it before it occurred to him to remove the shell?)…”

Now this opens an entirely new vista: I haven’t been worrying about eggs and yeast, having been focused on strange things in my cake batter, but you get the picture.

And then there are all sorts of other peculiar things like mock apple pie, being made from Ritz crackers –another topic for another day. (See my article title “Mock Apple Pie and other Foodie Wannabees” posted on 2/6/11)

If you want to try some of these recipes, here goes:

To make IMPOSSIBLE COCONUT PIE
2 CUPS milk
¼ cup butter or margarine
1½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick baking mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Place all ingredients in blender container. Cover and blend on high 15 seconds. Pour into pie plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool.

One of my favorite Impossible pies is the pumpkin one – and since it’s just a few weeks until Thanksgiving, let me share this one with you too:

TO MAKE IMPOSSIBLE PUMPKIN PIE

1 CAN (16 OZ) pumpkin
1 can (13 oz) evaporated milk
2 TSP butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick Baking mix
2½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Beat all ingredients 1 minute in blender on high, or 2 minutes with hand beater. Pour into plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp EACH baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon,
1l2 tsp each nutmeg and salt
1/4 cup cocoa
3 eggs
1 tsp each vanilla extract and grated orange peel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (3 or 4)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Use shredded raw or pureed cooked zucchini (gives a finer texture) Preheat oven 350.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and cocoa and set aside.
In large bowl beat eggs very light. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy and pale ivory in color. Slowly beat in oil.

Stir in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk and zucchini. Blend well. Add nuts (if using). Put into sheet cake pan or 2 9″ layer cake pans. Bake 350 40-45 minutes for layers, 1 hr for sheet. Layers: fill and frost with icing. Sheet cake: while warm drizzle with orange glaze.
GLAZE: Stir in bowl, 1 cup powdered sugar, 5 tsp orange juice, 1 tsp shredded orange peel and 1 TBSP hot melted butter.

AL SICHERMAN’S SAUERKRAUT FUDGE CAKE (requires 10” tube pan)

2/3 cup sauerkraut
2¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
9 oz dairy sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
PENUCHE GLAZE:
¼ CUP BUTTER
½ CUP BROWN SUGAR
2 TBSP HOT MILK
¾ CUP SIFTED POWDERED SUGAR

Thoroughly grease a10” tube pan. Cut a ring of brown paper to fit the bottom of the pan and grease that, too. (*if you don’t have any brown paper, I think parchment paper will work just as well)

Drain and rinse the sauerkraut and snip it into very small pieces.

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt and cocoa. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Alternately add dry ingredients and water to the butter mixture, stirring after each addition and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients Fold in sauerkraut and chocolate chips.
Turn into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees 55 minutes to an hour, or until cake is springy. (Toothpick test won’t work). Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes; loosen cake from sides of pan with knife and invert on serving plate. Peel paper from the top. Prepare glaze; melt butter and brown sugar together. Boil 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Cool 10 minutes, then beat in hot milk. Add sifted powdered (confectioners) sugar, stirring until glaze consistency. Drizzle over slightly warm cake.

QUICK CHOCOLATE COOKIES

1 PKG chocolate cake mix, 2 layer size
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup Miracle Whip dressing
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonsful onto greased cookie sheets* Bake 10-23 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes 4 dozen.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: I’ve said this many times. I don’t grease cookie sheets anymore. I use parchment paper, cut to fit the cookie sheets and you can use it REPEATEDLY. It works much better than greasing the cookie sheets).

PINTO BEAN CAKE
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 egg
• 2 cups cooked pinto beans, mashed
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• 2 cups diced apple without peel

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube pan.
2. Cream butter or margarine and sugar together. Add the beaten egg and mix well. Stir in the mashed cooked beans and the vanilla.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground allspice together. Add the chopped pecans, golden raisins, and the diced apples to the flour mixture. Stir to coat. Pour flour mixture into the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 45 minutes. Dribble with a simple confectioner’s sugar icing and garnish with candied cherries and pecan halves, if desired.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

¾ cup sauerkraut drained and chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup water
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Sift all dry ingredients together. Cream sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat eggs in one at a time.
2. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with water.
3. Add sauerkraut mix thoroughly.
4. Pour into greased pan or pans.
5. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until cake tests done.
6. Frost

CHOCOLATE MAYONNAISE CAKE
Ingredients:
• 2 cups flour
• 1/2 cup cocoa
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 cup water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Cream together the sugar, mayonnaise, water and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into greased and floured layer cake pans (or a 9- x 13-inch pan). Bake at 350°F. for about 25 minutes.

RED BEET CAKE

1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. oil
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. pureed cooked fresh beets (if using canned, drain and mash.)
6 tbsp. carob or chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, soda, salt and set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, oil in mixing bowl. Beat in beets, chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating well. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

This is an excellent cake. Healthy too. Very moist.

Chocolate Avocado Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch tins. Set aside. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside too. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before icing.
**
I read about a tomato soup cake “from Michigan” which made me wonder –DID tomato soup cake originate in Michigan? I turned to two of my favorite resources, AMERICA COOKS by the Browns, published in 1940 – attributes Tomato Soup Cake to Michigan, as do Larry Massie & Priscilla Massie in their fantastic cookbook “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” which does indeed offer a recipe for tomato soup cake. Their recipe comes from a 1945 Kalamazoo community cookbook. Here is that recipe for tomato soup cake:

1 cup sugar
2 TSP shortening
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 can tomato soup
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped nut meats

Cream shortening, add sugar, then tomato soup, then flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and soda. Then add raisins and nuts and bake in a loaf pan for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

And here is the Tomato Soup cake recipe in the Browns cookbook, “AMERICA COOKS”:

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup tomato soup, undiluted
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Blend the shortening with sugar. Stir baking soda into tomato soup and add to shortening/sugar mixture. Sift dry ingredients and add the mixture. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Pour into greased and floured 13” by 9” cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Frost with a Cream Cheese Frosting.

To make the Browns’ Frosting for tomato soup cake:

1 pkg cream cheese
1 TBSP butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar to spreading consistency

The Browns note that the shortening they used was Crisco and one entire can of Campbell’s condensed and undiluted tomato soup equaled one cup. Now this may be a minor discrepancy in today’s can of Campbell’s tomato soup, inasmuch as all of the soups measure a net weight of 10 ¾ ounces…but when you pour the contents of a cream soup into a glass measuring cup—it’s just a shade over 8 ounces. What to do? Use a can of tomato soup and go ahead with the recipe. I don’t think it will make any difference. If you are a purist, scoop away anything over one cup.

Happy Cooking!

Sandy
*This blog article was originally posted on 11/11

SEARCHING FOR NIKA HAZELTON-THE NO-NONSENSE COOK

One of the first cookbooks that I read by Nika Hazelton was something titled, “I COOK AS I PLEASE”, published in 1974. It was one of the first cookbooks that I found in which the author had skillfully woven memoir with recipes—and I was charmed. I was also hooked and wanted to learn more about Nika Hazelton. I began searching for her cookbooks.

Researching a cookbook author is not always an easy task—years ago, very little biographical information about cookbook authors was provided by the publishers. Today, any well-known cookbook author (such as James Beard, Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher, to name a few), has biographies written about them and the publisher usually provides a fairly substantial background bio on the book jacket. This wasn’t the case with cookbooks published decades ago. But when the collection of recipes is also a memoir, much can be gleaned from within the pages of the book, and not just from the dust jacket.

Let’s start with what we do know.

Nika Hazelton was born in Rome, (German father, Roman mother), grew up in Switzerland, and received her schooling in England. Nika studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics. She spent her early years traveling to the capitals of Europe with her father, who was a German diplomat.

In 1935, Nika made her home in the United States. She was considered an expert in the food of many countries. Nika began writing cookbooks during World War II, and at least seven of those books were on European cuisine. In addition to writing cookbooks, Nika was editor of the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Food and she wrote for virtually every major magazine, including The New Yorker, Family Circle, Vogue and Virginia Quarterly. . She also had a monthly column in The National Review and was a regular contributor to The New York Times. In addition, Nika was an editorial writer for Harper’s Bazaar, covering food stories. (With all the writing that she did for various magazines, it’s a wonder she found time to write cookbooks as well!).

One of her earliest books, “THE ART OF CHEESE COOKERY” was first published in 1949 by Doubleday & Company under the name of Nika Standen. Other books were published under the name of Nika Standen Hazelton and, later, just Nika Hazelton.

A clue to the type of cook she was can be found in the Introduction to “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN”, published in 1985. “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN” was not intended to be a cookbook for beginners. She lets you know from the onset that she assumes, if you have bought and are reading this book, you know something about cooking. She also explains that she likes simple foods made with the best ingredients available. Nika Hazelton was definitely a no-nonsense type of cook!

She used only freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the finest Tuscan olive oil (although she admitted to frying with peanut oil). She preferred butter over margarine for the simple reason that it tasted better. Nika never worried about cholesterol since she didn’t like fatty or greasy foods anyway and she removed all fat from meats and poultry (except when roasting a chicken!).

Nika said that she used few herbs and spices in her cooking because she disliked the flavor of too many herbs in one dish. “To my taste,” she wrote, I prefer to taste either basil or thyme or marjoram or sage or whatever in one dish rather than a combination of herbs.” However, she admitted to being less rigid with combinations of spices.

Nika wrote that she made cakes the old fashioned way, from scratch. She described her kitchen as being furnished with basic equipment, which included a KitchenAid mixer to mix, a Cuisinart to mince, a rotary peeler to peel and a small mandolin to cut transparent slices of potatoes and cucumbers. She writes, “My kitchen also sports a couple of balloon whisks, wooden spoons, good knives, and a very sharp pair of scissors, as well as the standard paraphernalia of measuring cups, mixing bowls, measuring spoons and so forth…”

She explains that she lived in the city and didn’t have much kitchen space, so she kept only bare essentials on hand in the pantry and said that she used very few canned foods (tomatoes, chickpeas and beans). Simplicity was Nika’s keyword throughout this introduction and to explain this philosophy, she said that she liked to keep things simple, possibly because throughout her life she had to cook for a family as well as professionally. Consequently, Nika adopted (to quote her), a “somewhat dispassionate” view of cooking—which may be a far cry from the themes of most professional cooks and cookbook authors. Generally, we expect a high level of enthusiasm from our cookbook authors! On the other hand, “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN” was published in 1985 and the dear lady had been cooking and writing by this time for quite a few decades. Although I still haven’t determined the date of her birth we do know that she came to the United States in 1935 and wrote a number of cookbooks during World War II.

At the time of writing “I COOK AS I PLEASE”, published in 1974, the author was living on Riverside Drive in New York City, with her husband, with a view that looked over the green trees of Riverside Park and the Hudson River. This kitchen is also described as small and utilitarian. The author says, “It is by no means a display kitchen where I celebrate with imported cookware or run a cooking school. Nor,” she adds, “is it a family kitchen where the folks gather for warmhearted meals. Family meals with children,” she admonishes, “are horrible, yet children have to eat with their betters, as parents were called in a less permissive age, to learn at least a modicum of table manners…”

Nika thought teen-age meals no less awful, “Since fights lie beneath the surface. My children have known all this from early childhood, and even now when we have lived through a family meal, we all say: ‘Thank God, all has gone off well.”

Her kitchen in “I COOK AS I PLEASE” is described as having black Formica counters, a butcher block top and pine cabinets that got waxed three times a year, “and that,” she proclaims, “is it, even in dirty New York.” She describes the contents of cabinets and drawers in this kitchen, with “ironed towels done by the laundry because ironed kitchen towels are nice and life is too short to iron them…” This drawer also contained her aprons because it had been a hard and fast rule in her mother’s kitchen to wear an apron. Another drawer is described as holding “the flotsam and jetsam of kitchen life: Hungarian pastry brushes made from goose feathers, frames for making chocolate leaves, rubber bands, candles for blackouts, bottle tops with artistic design on top given to me by a five-year-old child as a token of her affection, fondue forks, scallop shells, measuring tapes, and a collection of never-consulted food leaflets, including one on how to make cheese at home…”

(This, from a woman who wrote an entire cookbook about cheese!).

She didn’t have a dishwasher—this woman who had a laundry service to iron her dishtowels—and said she could live without one since she didn’t find dishwashing nasty, “whereas,” Nika proclaims, “I find making beds nasty…”

“As I wash up, under running hot water” she explains, “I muse about any number of subjects. Dishwashing is much better for musing than lying in one’s bath or in bed….” (To which I have to agree. But I have to say, I don’t iron dishtowels, nor are they done at a laundry!)

Nika confessed that cookbooks were another one of the subjects she mused about as she washed dishes, and she writes an entire chapter about cookbooks in “I Cook As I Please”—she comments, quite rightly I think, that “cookbooks are mostly bought as escape literature, not to cook from…” Well, I don’t agree with Nika last sentence but perhaps that is how she felt about too many cookbooks in the 1970s. Of all the Hazelton cookbooks in my possession, “I COOK AS I PLEASE” remains my favorite.

Nika Standen Hazelton is the author (or co-author) of the following cookbooks:

• REMIISCENCE AND RAVIOLI, 1946, William Morrow & Co.
• THE ART OF CHEESE COOKERY, (published under the name of Nika Standen) Doubleday & Company, 1949
• THE CONTINENTAL FLAVOR, 1961
• CLASSIC SCANDINAVIAN COOKING, 1965, 1987 Galahad Books
• THE ART OF SCANDINAVIAN COOKING, 1965
• THE SWISS COOKBOOK, 1967 Atheneum Publishers
• HOUSE OF INDIA COOKBOOK, 1967, co-authored with Syed Abdullah.
• HAMBURGER, 1972, SIMON & SHUSTER
• DINNER AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 1972, by Charles Oliver FORWARD by Nika Hazelton
• I COOK AS I PLEASE, 1974, Grosset & Dunlap
• UNABRIDGED VEGETABLE COOKBOOK 1976
• NIKA HAZELTON’S WAY WITH VEGETABLES, 1976 , republished 1995 by Castle Books
• AMERICAN HOME COOKING, 1980, Viking Press
• FAMILY CIRCLE RECIPES AMERICA LOVES BEST, 1982
• NIKA HAZELTON’S PASTA COOKBOOK, 1984, Ballantine Books
• FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN, 1985, Viking Press
• UPS AND DOWNS, MEMOIRS OF ANOTHER TIME, 1989, Harper & Row
• THE BELGIAN COOKBOOK
• EGGS!
• THE PICNIC BOOK
• STEWS!
• CHOCOLATE!
• THE BEST OF ITALIAN COOKING
• THE ART OF DANISH COOKING
• WHAT SHALL I COOK TODAY?
• THE COOKING OF GERMANY (Food of the World Series)
• RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY’S COOKBOOK
• AMERICAN WINES
• THE REGIONAL ITALIAN KITCHEN
• LA CUISINE BY R. OLIVIER (translator and editor)
• THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM COOKBOOK (co author Faith Stewart-Gordon)
• COOKIES AND BREADS; THE BAKER’S ART co-authored with Ilse Johnson and Ferdinand Boesch
• INGREDIENTS COOK’S* co-authored with Adrian Bailey and Philip Dowell (illustrator)

Like I have so many other times, I Googled Nika Standen Hazelton to see if I could find some biographical information. I did.

Nika Hazelton, Whose Cookbooks Influenced U.S. Tastes, Dies at 84

By MOLLY O’NEILL
Published: April 17, 1992

Nika Hazelton, whose cookbooks have been a mainstay of serious cooks for nearly half a century, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 84 years old and lived in Manhattan.
She died of natural causes after a lingering illness, said her son, Dr. S. A. Standen, who lives in London.

Mrs. Hazelton, the daughter of a German diplomat, was born in Rome, attended school there, and studied at the London School of Economics. She began her career as a reporter in 1930, covering the League of Nations for the German Press Association and then moving on to freelance work.
After marrying and emigrating to the United States in 1940, she began writing cookbooks with recipes culled primarily from home cooks throughout Europe and South America.

She published 30 books and they reflected her firm, no-nonsense taste in food. “American Home Cooking” (Bobbs Merrill, 1967), “French Home Cooking” (Viking Penguin, 1979,) “International Cookbook” (Harper & Row, 1967) and “The Italian Cookbook (Henry Holt, 1979) remain standards.
She was also a frequent contributor to the major food magazines and for several decades wrote a column about food, wine and travel for The National Review.

As cooking became trendy and precious in the United States, she seemed to raise a speculative eyebrow. Facing a group of wine writers in New York several years ago, Mrs. Hazelton waved aside questions about white truffles and little-known family vineyards. “I’m here to show you a meal from Tuscany that has the virtue of not being too expensive and not taking much genius or fuss to prepare,” she informed her audience and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to make escarole and rice soup.

Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1954. She married Harold Hazelton in 1956. He died in November.

Mrs. Hazelton is survived by two sons, Dr. Standen and J. O. Standen, a lawyer in San Francisco, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 P.M. on April 28 at St. Agnes Church on East 43d Street in Manhattan.

Correction: April 18, 1992, Saturday An obituary yesterday about the cookbook author Nika Hazelton misstated the day of her death and the date of a memorial service. She died on Wednesday, and the service will be on April 27, at 3 P.M., at the Church of St. Agnes, 141 East 43d Street, in Manhattan
**

I have to tell you, I was bemused to read about her comment to the group of wine writers, as indicated above in her obituary. That is so Nika.

*The obituary credits Ms. Hazelton with writing 30 cookbooks. Possibly they weren’t including the cookbooks she co-authored.

–Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook reading!

Sandra Lee Smith

*This blog article was originally posted in 2011

A FEW MORE MICHIGAN (COOKBOOK) FAVORITES

A few other Michigan cookbooks had been set aside after I finished posting “Saluting Michigan Friends & Kinfolk” so maybe you can consider this a “P.S.” to the earlier post.

One I am particularly fond of is a spiral bound church cookbook titled “AFTER GRACE” compiled by members of Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids to honor the 100th birthday of Grace Church.
Soon after church members began collecting recipes for a cookbook, one of their Guild members discovered, in her own cookbook collection, a copy of the 1892 Grace Church Cook Book which contained over a thousand recipes. They thought it would interesting to provide their readers with some of the recipes from the original Grace Church Cookbook. What a find! So, from the 1892 Grace Church Cookbook, here is a recipe for “grilled almonds” that reminds me of a candied almond I have made. To make Grilled Almond, Mrs. Seymour advises, “These are a very delicate candy, seldom met with outside of France. Blanch a cupful of almonds, dry them thoroughly; boil a cupful of sugar and ¼ cup of water til it hairs* throw in the almonds, let them fry, as it were, in the syrup, stirring occasionally; they will turn a faint yellow brown before the sugar changes color, do not wait an instant once this change of color begins, or they will lose their flavor, remove from the fire, stir them until the syrup turns back to sugar and clings irregularly to the nuts. You will find them delicious and they are an alternate at dinner with the salted almonds so fashionable.

Artichoke Dips are a popular appetizer in trendy restaurants nowadays – there is a really simple recipe in “After Grace” that would fit in a 3-ingredient cookbook as well. To make artichoke dip, you just need
2 jars marinated artichokes, drained
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup diet or lite mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients in blender. Pour into a soufflé dish to bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with chips or crackers. ~~

One more for your next party – I first tasted these at one of my office potlucks—so good!

To make Seasoned Oyster Crackers you will need:

½ regular size package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
2 tsp dill
2 tsp garlic powder
1 (16 oz) box of oyster crackers
½ cup salad oil

Heat oil to warm. Mix dry ingredients with warm oil. Pour over crackers tossing until well mixed. Put on ungreased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, stirring often to keep from burning. Cool & serve. ~~

One thing that I love are Vidalia onions; they are in the supermarket for a brief period of time and then you have to go back to using plain old brown or white onions. When they are “in season” I buy a bunch and spend a day chopping them up and packing them in plastic freezer bags, the one quart size—so I can have them ready to use in recipes. Now this recipe caught my attention but you will have to use fresh Vidalias and slice them.

To make Vidalia Onion Casserole you will need

5 large Vidalia onions
1 stick margarine (or butter)
Parmesan cheese
Ritz crackers

Peel the onions and slice into thin rings. Sauté in margarine until limp or opaque. Pour half of the onions into a 1½ quart casserole. Cover with Parmesan cheese and crushed crackers. Repeat layers and bake, uncovered, in a 325 degree oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Yum! ~~
I have been unable to determine if copies of “After Grace” are still available. I have a email address for anyone who wants to try to buy one; sherrytrout@gracechurchgr.org. Apparently, my copy came from Schuler Books in Grand Rapids—the receipt was inside the book. ~~

Another church cookbook is “Welcome to our Table” compiled by members of the St Luke the Evangelist church in Bellaire, Michigan. This cookbook was published in 2007, relatively recently – so you may be able to find a copy.

Here is a recipe for Father Jim’s Pork Chops!

Pork chops
Aunt Jemima complete pancake mix
Olive oil
Onion

Wash pork chops in tap water. Dust the chops completely in the pancake mix; cover well. Brown the pork chops in a fry pan with olive oil. Place the browned chops in a casserole dish with onion slices on top. Add about ½ more chopped onions. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. ~~

Another from “Welcome to our Table” that has a unique twist to a breakfast brunch – is titled “Pepperoni Breakfast” and to make it you will need

2 ½ cups frozen shredded hash browns
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 TBSP butter
5 eggs
½ cup milk
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
25 slices pepperoni
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a large skillet. Cook potatoes and onion in butter until tender and light brown. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Pour over potato mixture. Sprinkle with pepperoni. Cover and cook on medium-low for 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cheese, cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Cut into wedges. Makes 6 servings.

The contributor this recipe was someone named Sharon Smith. No relation although I have a niece by marriage named Sharon Smith! ~~

I have been searching for the longest time for a tater tot casserole that I used to make for my sons when they were children. This sounds almost like it. To make Tater Tot Casserole you will need

1 lb hamburger,
¼ cup onion
1 c. grated cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small package tater tots

Brown hamburger and put into a loaf pan. Layer onion, cheese, mushroom soup and tater tots on top (in that order). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. ~~

I couldn’t find ordering information for “Welcome to our Table” but you could try this email address: stluke@torchlake.com. This would be a great addition to your cookbook collection! ~~
Another church cookbook that I can’t find a publishing date for is “First Assembly of God Cookbook/Our Favorite Recipes for Feeding our Flock”, from the First Assembly of God Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. Sometimes when the cookbook committee is putting together their collection of recipes, the date of publication is overlooked. In any event, here is a nice recipe for making

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
3 cups biscuit mix
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup quick oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh blueberries

Combine biscuit mix, brown sugar, oatmeal and cinnamon. Set aside. In mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk and butter, mixing well. Add dry ingredients all at once and stir just until blended (do not beat). Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into muffin cups* 2/3 full of batter. Sprinkle top of each with sugar. Bake in 40 degrees oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on rack to cool; after they have been removed from pan. ~~

(*Sandy’s cooknote: the person who contributed this recipe doesn’t say so, but be sure to either spray the muffin tins with Pam or other vegetable spray – or, do as I do; use paper cupcake liners for easy removal from the muffin pans.)

Also from First Assembly of God, I found a recipe for Crispy Baked Fish – I always have trouble getting fish to turn out crispy so I am going to try this recipe that sounds delish. To make Crispy
Baked Fish you will need

Butter or oil
6 fish fillets
6 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup bread crumbs
Cooked rice

Butter or oil a large shallow baking pan. Butter one side of fillets and lay in a single layer in baking pan. Spread top of each fillet with 1 tsp Dijon mustard and then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees until fish I fully cooked and flakes easily, about 20 minutes. Check for doneness after 15 minutes to prevent overcooking. Serve fillets whole with cooked rice. Sprinkle with garnish of parsley to serve. ~~

Typing this recipe brought back a memory of an Almondine Fish recipe that my penpal Betsy had given to me years ago. I think the top of the fish was sprinkled with slivers of almonds. Well, my husband and children wouldn’t eat anything with NUTS in it – so I would run the almonds through the blender and mix them with the bread crumbs called for in the recipe. They never knew the difference.

First Assembly of God doesn’t provide any ordering information but there IS a telephone number on the first page of the cookbook – try 616 965 5441 and ask whoever answers if they have any of the cookbooks left!

Happy Cooking & even more happy cookbook Collecting!

Sandy

** Originally posted on my blog in 2011.