Monthly Archives: August 2011


Where does it all come from? What’s your source of information? Readers who write to my blog often ask this question—for instance, if I provide some kind of statistical quote – how do I know this is true? Well, just for starters I never quote anything of a statistical nature without checking my information.

Near my computer there are 3 medium sized bookcases – no cookbooks in any of these; they are all “food history” books and one of my greatest treasures. So, if it’s ok with all of you, this post will be about food history books. This may be a mammoth undertaking and the area around my desk is already heavily cluttered with letters, newspaper clippings, cookbooks I plan to write about, cookbooks that I have already written about but haven’t put away yet – always an assortment of recipes, generally the ones I plan to try “next” but also a pile of my sister Becky’s recipes that I am trying to get typed up so the family can publish a cookbook of her recipes.
For instance –



A FEAST FOR WORDS/For Lovers of Food & Fiction – Anna Shapiro

*A FOOD LOVER’S COMPANION – Selected and Edited by Evan Jones


A MEDIEVAL HOME COMPANION/Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century – Translated and edited by Tania Bayard


*A TASTE OF HISTORY/10,000 years of food in Britain –Maggie Black

A THOUSAND YEARS OVER A HOT STOVE- a History of American Women told through Food, Recipes and Remembrances – Laura Schenone

ALEXANDRE DUMAS’ DICTIONARY OF CUISINE – Edited, Abridged & Translated by Louis Colman

ALICE, LET’S EAT/On Food Calvin Trillin

AMERICA EATS- Nelson Algren

AMERICAN APPETITE/The Coming of Age of a Cuisine – Leslie Brenner

AMERICAN DISH/100 Recipes from Ten Delicious Decades – Merrill Shindler

*AMERICAN HOME COOKING – Cheryl Alters Jamison & Bill Jamison

AMERICAN PIE/Slices of Life (and pie) from America’s Back Roads – Pascale Le Draoulec



AROUND THE TABLE/Women on Food, Cooking, Nourishment, Love…and the Mothers who dishes it up for Them – Lela Nargi

BETTER THAN HOMEMADE/Amazing Foods that changed the way we eat – Carolyn Wyman

BEYOND THE HOUSEHOLD/Women’s Place in the Early South 1700-1835

*BOOKS & MY FOOD/Literary Quotations & Original Recipes for Every Day in the Year –Elisabeth Luther Cary & Annie M. Jones

BRING HOME THE BACON & CUTTING THE MUSTARD/The Origins & Meanings of the Food we speak

CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?/American Women and The Kitchen in the Twentieth Century – Mary Drake McFeely


*COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS/A History of Cookery – Betty Wason



DICTIONARY OF WORD ORIGINS/The Histories of more than 8000 English Language Words

DIGGING IN & PIGGIN’ OUT/The Truth about Food and Men – Roger Welsch (2)

EAT MY WORDS/Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote – Janet Theophano

EATING MY WORDS/An Appetite for Life – Mimi Sheraton

FADING FEAST/a Compendium of disappearing American Regional Foods – Raymond Sokolov

*FASHIONABLE FOOD/Seven Decades of Food Fads – Sylvia Longren

*FEAST HERE AWHILE/Adventures in American Eating – Jo Brans

FOOD – Ogden Nash

*FOOD IN HISTORY – Reay Tannahill

FOOD MANIA – Nigel Garwood & Rainer Voight

*FOOD OF THE FRONTIER, 1776 – 1976 – Gertrude HarrisFOOD ON THE FRONTIER/Minnesota Cooking from 1850 to 1900 – Marjorie Kreidberg

FOOD/AN OXFORD ANTHOLOGY – Edited by Brigid Allen

FOODBOOK/The Enriched, Fortified, Concentrated, Country-Fresh, Lip-Smacking Finger-licking, International, Unexpurgated – James Trager

FROM HARDTACK TO HOMEFRIES/An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals – Barbara Haber (2)


GLUTTONY/Ample Tales of Epicurean Excess – Edited by John Miller and Benedict Cosgrove






*KITCHEN CULTURE/Fifty Years of Food Fads – Gerry Schrempt

Frieda Arkin


LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE –The Encyclopedia of Food, wine, and cookery – Prosper Montagne

LET US EAT CAKE/Adventures in Food and Friendship – Sharon Boorstin


M.F.K. FISHER AND ME/a Memoir of food and friendship – Jeannette Ferrary




NEAR A THOUSAND TABLES/A History of food – Felipe Fernandez Armesto

NOT IN FRONT OF THE SERVANTS/A True Portrait of English Upstairs/Downstairs life – Framk Dawes

OUT TO LUNCH – Paul Levy

PARADOX OF PLENTY/a Social history of Eating in Modern America – Harvey Levenstein






RECIPES FOR READING/Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories –Edited by Anne L. Bower


SINCE EVE ATE APPLES – Selected & edited by March Egerton


SLAVE IN A BOX/The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima – M.M. Manring

SOMETHING FROM THE OVEN/Reinventing Dinner in the 1950s America- Laura Shapiro

STAND FACING THE STOVE/The Story of the Women who Gave America The Joy of Cooking – Anne Mendelson

THE RITUALS OF DINNER/The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities nd Meaning of Table Manners – Margaret Visser

*THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK/The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century – Jean Anderson

THE AMERICAN TABLE/A celebration of the Glories of American Regional Cooking – Ronald Johnson

THE BEST THING I EVER TASTED/The Secret of Food – Sallie Tisdale


THE COMFORTS OF HOME/The American House and the Evolution of Modern Convenience – Merritt I. Erley

*THE COOK’S TALE/Origins of famous foods & recipes – Lee Edwards Benning

*THE QUOTABLE BOOK LOVER edited by Ben Jacobs & Helena Hjalmarsson

*THE QUOTABLE FEAST/Savory Sayings on Cooking, Eating, Drinking and Entertaining


THE COOK’S COMPANION/A Dictionary of Culinary Tips and Terms – Frieda Arkin

*THE COOK’S TALES/Origins of famous foods and recipes – Lee Edwards Benning






THE FINE ART OF FOOD – Reay Tannahill

THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY/A Food Lover’s Compendium of Events and Anecdotes from prehistory to the Present – James Trager



THE HORIZON COOKBOOK and Illustrated History of Eating & Drinking through the Ages –William Harlan Hale & Editors of
Horizon Magazine

THE JOY OF EATING- Katie Stewart

THE KITCHEN – Nicolas Freeling

THE LOST ART OF REAL COOKING/Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food one Recipe at a Time- Ken Albala and Rosanna Natziger

THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING – Jeffrey Steingarten

THE NIGHT 2000 MEN CAME TO DINNER AND OTHER APPETIZING ANECDOTES – Garnered and Garnished by Douglas G. Meldrum


THE QUOTABLE COOK – edited by Kate Rowinski

THE SENSIBLE COOK/Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New World –Translated and Edited by Peter G. Rose

THE TASTE OF AMERICA – John & Karen Hess

THE TUMMY TRILOGY – Calvin Trillin

THE WAY WE ARE – Margaret Visser

THROUGH THE KITCHEN WINDOW/Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking – edited by Arlene Voski Avakian

WE ARE WHAT WE EAT – Edited by Mark Winegardner

*WHERE DID THAT WORD COME FROM/Fascinating and Curious Origins of Everyday Words –edited by A.M. MacDonald

WHY WE EAT WHAT WE EAT/How the encounter between the new old and the old changed the way everyone on the planet eats – Raymond Sokolov


• Asterisks denote some of my very favorite books.

A special thank you to my daughter in law, Keara, who walked me through putting these in alphabetical order over the telephone!

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!




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; 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

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 son s 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: 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!



In 2001, the cookbook from the Los Angeles Fair marked the 25th anniversary of this prestigious recipe book—and the 81st anniversary of the L.A. County Fair! This year, 2011, should be the 91st anniversary of the L.A. County Fair

From the L.A. County website we learn, “In 1921, a merchants exposition held along the Southern Pacific Railway in downtown Pomona set the stage for things to come…at the time, Los Angeles County did not have a county fair, and local businessmen saw this as an opportunity to bring recognition to the city of Pomona. A reporter for the Pomona Bulletin overheard two Lions Club members discussing the idea and put it into print. One of those men, was a local music store owner who had been involved with fairs in Iowa. He was asked to present his plans to the Pomona Chamber of Commerce, which then took the idea of a fair to the city council.

Although half a dozen attempts to bring a fair to L.A. County had failed, the board set out to start the first L.A. County Fair. A fair board was formed. The city of Pomona agreed to purchase a 43-acre beet and barley field from the Ricardo Vejar estate for use as a fairground. Research revealed that the name “L.A. County Fair” was not registered. Afflerbaugh contacted Sacramento and the name was adopted at once.

The inaugural L.A. County Fair opened Oct. 17, 1922, and ran for five days through Oct. 21. Fair attendance in 1925 topped the 100,000 mark for the first time (102,991). It also marked the first time the Fair was held in September instead of October. The L.A. County Fair has an illustrious history but it should be noted that the fair closed down in 1942, due to
World War II, and was suspended for six years. The grounds played an important part in the war effort as they were taken over by the U.S. Army. The grounds were converted into a motor base in January, and headquarters were established in the home arts building. ..”

For some years, beginning in the 1980s, Bob and I made a trip to the County Fair in September, spending a night at the wonderful Sheraton Fairplex Hotel, (which provides a separate no-line-entrance for fairgoers) and in general, just having a ‘really good time’. We spent most of our time in the Home Arts Building, admiring all the beautiful quilts that were on display, the hand-created gowns and dresses, hand-crafted dollhouses and homemade breads, cakes, cookies, jams and jellies. The theme for 2001, “A Tapestry of Tradition” included a quilt show with more than 250 quilts from “A Tapestry of Tradition” quilt competition, which also included a display of antique quilts.

There are woodcarvers and table top displays, exhibits of hand-decorated Christmas trees, a wide variety of recipe contests which always includes the Weber barbecue contest and homemade beer and wine competitions—and for the past decade or more, a SPAM® recipe contest. One of the recipe contests 2001 was a 1970s type one-dish cooking contest, which was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the L.A. County Fair cookbook. There was also a spaghetti eating contest and a savory cheesecake contest, a pie eating contest and a butter churning contest.

The Los Angeles Fairgrounds in Pomona has, on site, a huge greenhouse and garden center called the Flower and Garden Pavilion. It offers one of the most spectacular floral exhibits on the west coast and, the fair people say, has delighted fairgoers with its various themes and décor for more than 50 years the many floral displays are always breath-taking beautiful. Behind the greenhouse, there are many vast decorated gardens to explore—or for fairgoers who tire a bit from the crowds and bustle, you can sit on the grass or on a park bench and rest a while under the trees.

There are dozens of carnival rides and a petting zoo, pig races, and more than 250 food concessionaires offering everything from oversize fried onions to a deep fried Snickers bar.

We enjoy walking around, drinking freshly made lemonade and eating hot dogs, while admiring the many different displays. There are always huge model train displays assembled by a model train club in the area, and thousands of vendors selling everything under the sun, from kitchen utensils to hot tubs.

We stayed at the hotel whenever we went to the fair, so that I could return to the room and rest periodically, and that evening, our friends Pat & Stan who lived in Covina, would meet us at the hotel and go with us to dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was wonderful and a delightful way to end the evening.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to the fair was—to buy a stack of the cookbooks, which I liked to give out as presents at Christmastime. I became enchanted with the L.A. County fair cookbooks in the late 1980s, at which time I also began entering some of my canned foods and winning some red and blue and pink ribbons. Then, I began searching for earlier L.A. County Fair cookbooks. I’ve been successful in finding all but one of the early cookbooks and have a few duplicate issues to use as bargaining chips to find what I am missing.

In 1978, workers at the Los Angeles County Fair were besieged with requests for copies of the winning recipes. The people in charge decided it might be a good idea to put together a little cookbook collection. The woman responsible for compiling that first cookbook was a lady by the name of Nadine Lowery, who was the home arts coordinator for the L.A. County Fair from 1971 to 1986. In an interview for the Los Angeles Daily News (September 3, 2003), Lowery recalled, “…then the requests for the recipes started. Oh, so many people wanted them that we decided to put together a little cookbook collection. I don’t remember the actual size of the first one but it was pretty small…”

I have a copy of the first L.A. County Fair Cookbook and can tell you – published in 1979, the first cookbook proudly boasts, “LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR FIRST EDITION OF AWARD WINNING RECIPES, COMPILED BY THE HOME ARTS DEPARTMENT”. The recipes were a collection of the 1978 prize-winning recipes and the little book, (even though the pages are unnumbered and the recipes un-indexed) reflects the prize winning recipes of the 1970s with a heavy emphasis on home baking – home made breads, pies, cakes, and cookies. (As a yardstick for comparison, the 1978 prize winning cookbook contains 23 winning recipes for preserved foods…the 2002 issue contains over 70 recipes! – and if I were to go back and count, I’m sure I’d find that the cookbooks of the 1990s, which contained first, second, and third place winning recipes, would have a far higher total).

“With our first cookbook” said Nadine Lowery, “we sold out in four or five days. We had no idea back then that this was going to be so popular…”

The 1980 Fair cookbook, titled “Blue Ribbon Recipes” reflected the winning recipes from the 1979 fair and also was a small un-indexed cookbook. By the time the Ls Angeles County Fair Award Winning Recipes published in 1983, reflecting the winning recipes for 1982, the Home Arts Department had produced a much better cookbook and it was indexed. And, a few years later, by the time the Home Arts Department published “Award Winning Recipes – Discover America – L.A. County Fair September 7-30, 1990 (for the winning 1989 recipes), the cookbook had become a best seller, a big thick cookbook with the price remaining at $10.00. And by the mid 1980s Bob & I had begun to enter jams and jellies, pickles and other canned items into the L.A. County Fair.

In past cookbooks, the top three winning entries were published in each category, but the collections became too big. (Well, this is what the Fair people say. I love those big thick fair cookbooks!). As reflected in the 25th anniversary edition, only 2002’s first place winners are listed. Even so, the cookbook provides 297 pages of recipes which gives you some idea of the magnitude of the Los Angeles County Fair, considered the largest county fair in the entire USA.

Fair cookbooks are, I think, regional Americana at its finest. I was addicted and began collecting regional fair cookbooks and state cookbooks. But the L.A. County Fair remains my favorite.

My L.A. County Fair cookbook collection ends with the book published in 2005, offering the winning recipes from the 2004 Fair. Even though only the first place winning recipes are in the book, there are over 300 recipes – demonstrating how popular our fair cookbook has remained over the years.

You can visit the Los Angeles County Fair’s website at The 2009 winning recipes are available, free, as a PDF file.

If you are interested in collecting fair cookbooks – wherever they are and where ever you are, much can be found just by googling “fair cookbooks”
A few years ago, my younger sister and I were in San Diego for a few days with one of our nieces and we found many San Diego cookbooks at a used cookbook store there. The three of us loaded up on many of our favorites.

I’m hopeful that by NEXT year I will be able to enter some of my prize jellies and jams or pickles in the Antelope Valley fair! And perhaps we’ll be able to go back to the L.A. County Fair as well.

Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook Collecting !



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 of 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 she 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!

I did some checking on—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.


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 They have pre-owned copies starting under $10.00. They have one new copy at $31.99 and 8 used and new from $17.68. I found listings on starting at $7.49 but was stunned to see the prices for a first edition—some of them starting around $125.00. **

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
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 – 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 cp 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

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. 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 St 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 note 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 new or pre-owned starting at $2.99—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!


It may surprise you to learn that spiral bound cookbooks – whether battered, tattered, stained or not – are not all church or club cookbooks. In fact, there is such a wide variety of “other” types of cookbooks that I am hard pressed to find categories for some of them and often am at a loss where to file them.

Cookbooks produced by museums throughout the country are numerous enough to have their own spotlight. The same might be said of cookbooks published by restaurants. (One of the most famous of these might be Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House restaurant cookbook.)

One kind of cookbook you may not be quite as familiar with may be those compiled and published by an individual or a family. The ones published by an individual are easy to understand – everyone loves your recipes, everyone says you really ought to publish a cookbook – and so you do. (but oops – all those people who kept saying you ought to publish a cookbook may not be as forthcoming when you let them know the books are $10 or $15 each.

As for families – I can speak for my own family; it took us 20 years of cajoling, begging and persuading to get enough recipes to finally have our cookbook published. And then it all fell into my sister Becky’s hands and mine to see it through – from collecting to publishing, and putting up the money between us to get it to the publisher. (for, while clubs and churches have something like a 90 day grace period from the time they receive the published book to get it paid off – individuals have to have the books paid in full before they are shipped. Our cookbook was published in 2004 and almost all of the copies distributed amongst family & friends of the family.

Only 200 copies were published. When I edited a cookbook for our local PTA, only about 200 copies were published and a boxful of those got lost somewhere along the way. I have often regretted not holding onto the ones that hadn’t sold. My sister Becky and I were both involved in PTA cookbooks around the same time, in the 1970s. Oddly, one of HER PTA cookbooks ended up in Maryland – where a friend of mine bought it, not knowing it was my sister’s art work throughout the book. I was dumbfounded to find a copy on her shelves. Generally, I file PTA cookbooks with the state in which they were published.

Even so, there are oodles and oodles of individuals and “others” that often turn up in the marked-down sale prices in front of used bookstore windows, loose ends, perhaps, because no one knows quite how to categorize them. One such might be “Northwest Corner Historical Cookbook, Food & Fact”, copyright 1970 by “the author” and warns without the express permission of the author, no portion or part of this book may be duplicated…but it took some searching and a magnifying glass to find the names “Arthur & Margaret Mortensen” in small print—I’d share one of their recipes with you but I don’t want to run amuck of Arthur or Margaret – or their heirs, considering that the book was published 40 years ago.

“NESEI KITCHEN” was published in 1975 by the St Louis Chapter Japanese American Citizens League—file with Missouri cookbooks? Japanese? Here, from Nesei Kitchen is a recipe for broiled shrimp on skewers that you will be sure to like – whether or not you like “foreign food”.

36 shrimp
½ cup mirin*
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sugar
bamboo skewers

Shell and devein shrimp. Set aside. In a small sauce pan, combine soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 3-4 minutes. Place 2 shrimp on each skewer. Dip briefly in soy sauce mixture. Broil over medium charcoal; heat for 2-3 minutes, dipping in sauce once or twice during broiling. Serve hot. Serves 10-12

(Sandy’s cooknote *Mirin is a Japanese rice wine less alcoholic than Sake. This would be a great appetizer for a small dinner party group. I would suggest using medium to large shrimp). **

One of the first non-church or club cookbooks that I bought back in the 1970s was something called “A LITTLE FUR IN THE MERINGUE NEVER REALLY HURTS THE FILLING” by Cherie, published in 1972. I think I bought it mostly out of curiosity, but I discovered, page after page, that Cheri wrote the kind of cookbook I might have written myself. In the introduction, Cherie writes, “For several years now, my friends have asked me to sit down and write a book because they say everything different happens to you and ends up being funny….”

A bit later, Cherie writes, “It is not symbolic of anything, no hidden meanings lurk among the pot roast, is practically devoid of sex and four –letter words, takes absolutely no intelligence to read, will certainly not make the literary world stand up and take notice, and sure won’t add a damn thing to the Vietnam situation. It is however, typical of most women’s everyday experiences. Those little trials and tribulations, like those fallen cakes you’ve baked for the church bazaar, those cut fingers every time you’ve just run out of bandaid, and all of those other little meaningless happenings that add up to a big fat headache. I realize we now have tranquilizers to solve these problems but for those of us who are still tee-totlers …I offer you the chance to share with me, my excellent recipes, my two many pounds, my two diabolical children [I had four), my roly-poly poodle and my fat and balding husband….” Well, she got me on the fat and balding husband. But Cherie wrote the kind of chatty cookbook I would have written, if I had ever gone down that road. It really IS the kind of cookbook you can read like other people read novels.

There are dozens of great recipes from which to choose – but I am going to present to you one of my favorites, similar to the cucumber recipe of my childhood. This is Cherie’s recipe for


2 cucumbers, peeled,
1 onion, thinly sliced
1¼ tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 TBSP vinegar
¼ tsp sugar
1/8 tsp paprika
1 TBSP parsley flakes

Draw tines of fork lengthwise down cucumbers. Then cut in thin slices. Add onion and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Let stand 10 minutes, then press out excess liquid. Mix rest of ingredients, add to cucumbers. Mix and chill.

Sandy’s cooknote: You can make this up a day (or even two) in advance. It will keep. I suggest you double the recipe because if you start sampling the cucumbers, as I tend to do, you will need to make more. A nice ripe tomato can also be sliced and added to the dish. The first time I made this for a Filipino girlfriend at one of our outdoor parties, she sat and ate the whole bowl of cucumbers.)

(*It took some searching but I finally did find some copies being offered on Amazon by private vendors, for about $7.50 each – not a bad price. I was surprised to find it listed at all.)

Another individually written cookbook in my files is something called
“Treasured & wanted Recipes” by Mary Ellen. In her introduction, Mary Ellen writes, “For 20 some years I’ve been asked to share my recipes – I have shared and many have shared with me. Now it’s time to share with all. Some are very old family recipes, some rather new – others from dear friends and then there are the little out-of-the- way Inns, where you corner the cook!….” “Treasured & Wanted recipes” has a copyright date of 1978. From Mary Ellen’s cookbook here is her recipe for “THE ‘OLD DUTCH’ COLE SLAW” and she adds “And I do mean old”. To make Mary Ellen’s Old Dutch Cole Slaw you will need:

1 small head of cabbage, shredded

Beat together :
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
Dash pepper
½ cup vinegar

Refrigerate cabbage, when shredded, to keep crisp. Beat cream to medium whipped cream only, then add other ingredients. Mix with cabbage just before serving.

“Treasured & Wanted Recipes” originally sold for $6.95 and Mary Ellen sold copies from her home in Kalamazoo. If you can find a copy, you will love it. I was unable to find any pre owned copies in my web searches.

Another favorite of mine is a well-worn copy of “1000+ Recipes from the American Cancer Society, Florida Division” – I no longer remember where I found it – possibly when I was living in Florida. The book was published in 1979 and I lived in North Miami Beach from 1979 to 1982. A huge amount of work went into “1000+ Recipes” which contains several recipes for chicken liver pate – one of my favorite appetizers (which my mother called Black Butter) –

You know there are numerous recipe for chicken liver pate. Try this one:

1 lb chicken livers
½ lb bacon, c hopped
1 bunch scallions or 4 shallots
4 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBSP Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp hot mustard
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. bourbon

Place livers and chopped bacon in covered saucepan with bay leaves, onion (see ingredients) garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Barely cover with water and boil gently 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves and add remaining ingredients. Blend in food processor using steel knife until pureed. Pack into buttered mold and chill. Serve with melba toast, garnished with hard boiled egg. Keeps 1 weeks in the frig and freezes well. Serves 20. **

In 1976, the Yellowstone Art Center Associates published a cookbook titled “Art A La Carte” with proceeds from the sale of the books going for improvements and exhibitions at the Yellowstone Art Center.

The recipe I’ve chosen is one that is similar to something my mother made regularly as a side dish, when I was a child. I’ve never found something exactly like mom’s (it may have been a Wok Presence thing) but this is close.

To make Tomato Scallop, you will need

2 tsp butter
1 TBSP flour
1 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
1 TBSP basil
4 TBSP dried onions
1 #2 can tomatoes (20 ounces, do not drain)
Buttered bread cubes

Melt butter, add flour, seasonings and onions. Make a paste and add to tomatoes in a 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle top with bread cubes and bake at 400* degrees or until hot & bubble. Serves 6.

(*Sandy’s cooknote—personally I am reluctant to bake anything in a glass casserole dish at 400 degrees. I would bake this at 350 degrees until its hot and bubbly.)

An unusual cookbook from Historic Marshall, Michigan was published in 1979 and titled “A Tasting Tour”. This cookbook contains a selection of the favorite recipes from the collection of Berta Denger. Berta, a native of eastern Iowa, moved to Marshall in 1964 and was soon inundated with requests to “do” parties. The cookbook provides a guide to some of Marshall’s famous 19th century homes. Here is Berta’s easy Blueberry Cake dessert for a 4th of July picnic—and so easy to make!
To make Berta’s Blueberry Cake – layer in a 9×13” pan the following ingredients in this order:

1 can blueberry pie mix
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained
1 box yellow or white cake mix
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts

Drizzle over all 1 cup melted margarine or butter. Bake 1 hr at 350 degrees. A red raspberry sauce or just hulled strawberries would complete your patriotic motif! **

If you like this type of post, I will do a part 2 or even a part 3 – I have a lot of this type of cookbook to use for reference material. Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!


The originally foodies—it may surprise you to learn—were none other than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Now, many of us are aware of Jefferson’s culinary expertise—but Washington and Franklin? Did you know they were foodies too?

Dave DeWitt, whose name I recognized from The Complete Chili Pepper Book and the Chili Pepper Encyclopedia, is the author of “THE FOUNDING FOODIES” subtitled “How Washington, Jefferson and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine, published in 2010 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Dave DeWitt is a leading food expert who has authored quite a few books and has appeared everywhere from the Today show to Mythbusters. He has also been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, USA Today, and approximately 200 newspapers across the country.

Recognizing the name of Dave DeWitt, I went scurrying to my book shelves to do some checking. I remembered the name of Dewitt from Chile Pepper Magazine and found a copy of “Hot & Spicy Chili” written by DeWitt, Mary Jane Wilson & Melissa T. Stock. As I surmised, DeWitt has written quite a few other books as well. This ain’t his first rodeo! And, I can’t prove it—but I think I have, buried in my filing cabinet a letter of approval that Dave DeWitt wrote to me after I did a review of one of his cookbooks for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange some years ago.

Writes DeWitt, “In April 1962, two months before I graduated from James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, President John F. Kennedy, at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere, paid homage to Thomas Jefferson’s wide-ranging interests and talents when he remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Five months later, I was enrolled at Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village, the University of Virginia, and was living in Echol’s Hall as an Echol’s Scholar.
To say that Jefferson was-and still is-worshipped at the university is an understatement. His legacy lingers everywhere, from the serpentine walls he designed for the gardens to the buildings he modeled after Greco-Roman structures and the statues of him and of George Washington opposite each other on the lawn. The story went that, if a virginal woman passed between the two statues, Mr. Washington would bow to Mr. Jefferson.”

DeWitt writes that his education at the university where he majored in English and took creative writing courses-ultimately led to his writing career, but not before a radical change in focus. He would study and write about his first loves, food history and cooking. [Heavy sigh – if only food history had been available when I was going to school. –sls]

Jefferson became DeWitt’s most significant hero. After he graduated from the university in 1966, he knew from the history he had absorbed that Thomas Jefferson was the ultimate multitalented and multidimensional historical figure. “But” he writes, “I didn’t know about his love of food and wine until many years later, when I began to read more history, especially more food history. Jefferson’s name appeared time and time again in the history of wine, horticulture, and food importation. While working on Da Vinci’s Kitchen, I consulted Silvano Serventi and Françoise Sabban’s Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food and discovered that Jefferson was widely credited with being the first American to import pasta into the new United States. It wasn’t precisely true, but that did it-I was hooked…”

During DeWitt’s subsequent research, he realized that the story of early American food and wine was not just about Jefferson but also included Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and many obscure but brilliant individuals who became his “founding foodies.” DeWitt decided that this was a food history that had to be written, but there were obstacles.

The first and most important challenge was the lingering reputation of colonial-era food-it was not good at all, according to most accounts.

But in 1977, DeWitt notes, “Food historians John Hess and Karen Hess wrote this in The Taste of America: “Thus, in this bicentennial period, such quasi-official historians as Daniel J. Boorstin and James Beard assure us that we have never had it so good-that Colonial Americans were primitives and ignoramuses in matters gastronomic. The truth is almost precisely to the contrary. The Founding Fathers were as far superior to our present political leaders in the quality of their food as they were in the quality of their prose and of their intelligence.”

My research proves that the Hess theory is true, and what I’ve learned has opened a window into the past culinary triumphs of those founding foodies.

(Food historians John & Karen Hess not only wrote “The Taste of America” – Karen Hess is the transcriber of “MARTHA WASHINGTON’S BOOKE OF COOKERY” published in 1995 by Columbia University Press, and the crown jewel in my food history collection,. The Carolina Rice Kitchen, published in 1992 and invaluable to me when I was writing “Our African Heritage” for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.)

DeWitt continues, “After I developed the concept for this book, I returned to the University of Virginia in 2007 to participate in a tour of Virginia vineyards conducted by the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The program was excellent, with a private tour of Monticello and the location of Jefferson’s failed vineyards. There were lectures on Jefferson’s influence on wine and wine making in the United States, and we saw a very nicely produced PBS video documentary titled The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine. While I was in Virginia, I also took a tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the restored gristmill and distillery, and I was impressed by the detailed exhibits that revealed Washington’s importance in colonial whiskey making, farming, and ranching.

The return to Virginia gave me a renewed sense of both place and history. My journey to write Founding Foodies has been long, but that now seems fitting, because I knew I had finally learned enough to attempt such a challenging project.

The term foodie encompasses a devotion to food in its many contexts. I’ve decided to use the word foodie in this book because I have been unable to find a better, more inclusive term that describes food devotion. Gourmet applies in only some cases of food devotion, not, for example, to people who devoted their lives to agricultural experimentation to find better crops.

Likewise, epicure, gastronome, and gourmand do not work in the broad contexts that this book explores.
So what is a foodie? The restaurant critic Gael Greene coined the term foodie in the early 1980s, and it moved into common usage when foodies became the targets-and the heroes-of Ann Barr and Paul Levy’s 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook. In that prescient and hilarious work, the authors defined a foodie as “a person who is very, very, very interested in food. Foodies are the ones talking about food in any gathering-salivating over restaurants, recipes, radicchio. They don’t think they are being trivial-foodies consider food to be an art, on a level with painting or drama…The purpose of life is eating well.”

Well, if you have been reading—and collecting—food history books for any length of time, you would sure know about Thomas Jefferson’s keen interest in fruits, vegetables, wines—and bringing some of his discoveries in Europe home to the United States.

Jefferson might not have been so capable of bringing some of those foods home with him nowadays with the stringent custom inspectors – although he was successful in smuggling rice out of Italy and sent it to the South Carolina Society for Promoting Agriculture—even though the penalty was death for smuggling that strain of rice out of Italy. (I guess first you had to catch the smuggler).

I don’t want to give too much away but would like to just comment on a few things. Writes DeWitt “Jefferson’s five years in Paris left a legacy of culinary “fakelore” according to food historian Andrew F. Smith. One of these was the myth that he introduced vanilla and macaroni to the United States and invented ice cream. Small quantities of vanilla beans had been imported to the United States from France prior to Jefferson’s time there, but he did enjoy it and later imported it to Monticello. Macaroni, an early genetic term for pasta, came to the United States from England as noodles in early colonial times; however Jefferson may have been the first American to import a pasta machine from Italy. Italians had invented ice cream in the sixteenth century. But both Washington and Jefferson imported ice-cream makers. These myths are all false, but what is true is that Jefferson was a passionate student of various foods, wines, and cooking techniques. For example in his letter to John Adams on November 27, 1785, he wrote extensively about chocolate and Portuguese wine and the impact these two items could have in America….”

[for more information about this, you will have to buy the book!]

Along with a fascinating foodie history, DeWitt includes recipes re-creating the recipes of the founding foodies and in the Appendix offers recommended historical sites and restaurants. I have never been to Washington, D.C. and can’t think of anything more tantalizing or enjoyable than the prospect of visiting historical sites and restaurants. For foodies such as myself, “The Founding Foodies” is a “must” for your collection.

“THE FOUNDING FOODIES” by Dave DeWitt was published in 2010 by Sourcebooks. Inc. It is available at, new, for $11.55 or pre-owned starting at $4.10. I also found it starting at 4.15 for pre owned copies on

As for Dave DeWitt – he is the author or co-author of the following:





BARBECUE INFERNO (with Nancy Gerlach)

A WORLD OF CURRIES (with Arthur Pais)

HOT & SPICY CHILI (with Mary Jane Wilan & Melissa t. Stock)

HOT & SPICY & MEATLESS (with Mary Jane Wilan & Melissa t. Stock)



THE FIERY CUISINES (with Nancy Gerlach)

FIERY APPETIZERS (with Nancy Gerlach)



THE PEPPER GARDEN (with Paul Bosland)

Happy cooking – and happy cookbook collecting!


Let me share with you a few thoughts about old friends and old books.

Years ago—when I was young and cute and the mother of only two little boys instead of four, I was working at Weber Aircraft when I found myself suddenly in need of a babysitter. A friend suggested her neighbor, a woman named Connie, who herself was the mother of three young children, the youngest a boy the same age as my son, Michael. (Remind me to tell you some time of all the mischief those two five-year-old-boys would get into!)

Connie became my babysitter and more importantly, a close friend. She was godmother to my youngest son, Kelly, when he was born. Connie and I shared so many interests that it’s impossible to say which one was the most important—and we shared a love of books. One of our interests focused on the White House and anything Presidential; one time we bought a “lot” of used White House/Presidential books, sight unseen, from a woman somewhere in the Midwest. I think the books cost us about $50.00 each and when they arrived, we sat on the floor divvying them up. We shared a love of cookbooks and began collecting them at the same time, in 1965, although Connie was a vegetarian and leaned more towards cookbooks of that genre. She was also “Southern” and shared with me a love of “anything” Southern. We shared a love of diary/journal type books and books about the Mormons—and religious groups that formed in the United States in the 1800s.

It was because of Connie that I started working for the Health Plan where I would be employed for 27 years—I only went to work “part time for six weeks to help out”, and there I was, years later, retiring the end of 2002 with a pension. My job literally saved my sanity when I went through a divorce in 1985.

My oldest son and her youngest started kindergarten together, and her oldest daughter lived with me for about six months, as a mother’s helper, when she was in high school.

In 1999, Connie died of lung cancer. It seems incongruous that someone so devoted to eating healthy should die of such a terrible disease.

One night, some months later, Connie’s oldest daughter brought three boxes of books to the house, explaining that it had taken a long time to go through her mother’s collections—many of her books were divided up amongst her children and other friends, but there were some that Dawn thought I would especially like.

After Dawn left, I opened the boxes and began laying the books all over the coffee table and chairs. Books about the White House – some I had never heard of before! I wish I could have had them when I was writing about cooking in the White House kitchens year ago–Intriguing titles such as “DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE” by Louis Adamic, memoirs of the Roosevelt years, published in 1946, and “DEAR MR. PRESIDENT; THE STORY OF FIFTY YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE MAIL ROOM” by Ira Smith with Joe Alex Morris, published in 1949.

There is a Congressional Cook Book – #2 – and a very nice copy of “MANY HAPPY RETURNS or How to Cook a G.O.P. Goose”, the Democrats’ Cook Book which was the inspiration for an article that appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of the Cookbook Collectors Exchange. There were several books about soups that I have never seen before. One was “THE New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook”, another “The ALL NATURAL SOUP COOKBOOK”.

More books about Southern cooking – a few duplicates but others I was unfamiliar with, “RECIPES FROM THE OLD SOUTH” by Martha Meade, a copy of the “GONE WITH THE WIND COOKBOOK” – actually, a booklet – which was given away free with the purchase of Pebeco Toothpaste which is long gone from the drug store scene while “Gone with the Wind” is as famous as ever.

My friend and I drifted apart some years ago, after a difference of opinion –we remained friends but were not as inseparable as we once were. She made other friends and so did I.

But I was deeply touched that some of her treasured books came into my possession. Running my hands across the covers, I imagine that Connie had done the same thing, many times, dusting them, touching them. For in one aspect, if no other, we were kindred souls. We loved books. I still do.