Recently, I flew to my hometown of Cincinnati to spend a few days with relatives and friends. Originally, the “plan” was for me to fly to Ohio in August, when my son Steve & his wife were driving to Cincinnati for their vacation. Steve had not been to Cincinnati since he was ten years old and for Lori it was a first. I was to be the ‘in-between’ introducing them to all the relatives on both sides of Steve’s family – although I have been divorced for over 25 years, I have maintained a warm and loving relationship with my in-laws.
However, the health of my significant other, Bob, took a turn in August and I was unable to find anyone willing to check on him every day. We had misjudged when my daughter in law would be returning to the high school where she teaches. So, my son decided to book a flight for himself to California and the new “plan” was for him to be Bob’s caregiver for a week, while I took a short vacation. (Perhaps I should note, I had been Bob’s caregiver 24/7 for the past year without any kind of a break). My daughter in law rebooked my flight and I was scheduled to fly to Cincinnati on my birthday in September.
Even the best laid plans, etc etc – and Bob passed away September 22nd. Steve cancelled HIS flight and to make a long story even longer, I did fly to Cincinnati on September 28 after several hectic days of making arrangements with a mortuary to have Bob cremated. (Steve has rebooked HIS flight and will be arriving October 22nd – my granddaughter is thrilled; Steve is her favorite uncle).
I was reluctant to go, after all the stops and starts and worried constantly about my little Jack Russell terrier, Jackie, that she would be lonely and confused – first Bob’s departure, then mine. But, going to my hometown was healing and one of the greatest rewards was a reunion with two Beckman cousins I had not seen for over 50 years. A third Beckman relative is my cousin Irene with whom I have had a warm relationship throughout our lives. We even made our first communions together, and were partners walking up to the church.
The day after my arrival, the three cousins arrived at my nephew’s house (where I stay when I am in town) and we spent 7 hours talking non-stop and sharing photographs and memories. And Irene – who the family calls Renee—presented me with a birthday present – Grandma Beckman’s cookbook.
Now, a word about Grandma Beckman’s cookbook – I didn’t know it existed until a few years ago, when searching for a particular family recipe. Renee told me that she had Grandma Beckman’s cookbook, into which Grandma had written many of her favorite recipes. I was astonished when I first learned about the cookbook –I had NO idea it even existed. As for my paternal grandmother having a cookbook – that grandmother barely wrote English and all of her recipes were in her head. The wise one in the family was my Aunt Evelyn (whom we all call Aunt Dolly, a family pet name) who learned Grandma Schmidt’s recipes by standing by her side, watching every step of making strudels and noodles and Hungarian goulash. We finally published a family cookbook in 2004 and called it “Grandma’s Favorite” in honor of that grandmother.
But back to Grandma Beckman’s cookbook! The book itself is in a truly battered, tattered condition with the covers falling off and held together with old tape. Published in 1889, “OUR HOME CYCLOPEDIA COOKERY AND HOUSEKEEPING” was published by the Mercantile Publishing Company in Detroit, Michigan. There is no byline but the inside page offers a copyright by Frank S. Burton, 1889. (That being said, my favorite research resource, Google, offers a listing of this cookbook by the Library of Congress and indicates the author as Edgar S. Darling).
It would have been a contemporary cookbook when Grandma B. was a young woman and my copy shows a great deal of wear and tear, with some of the most stained pages are under the Dessert section. Did Grandma B. make a lot of pies? I don’t know. The only thing I clearly remember her making for us were some corn pancakes or fritters, once when she was visiting us. I admit, I am appalled by recipes for collared eels and cods’ head but a recipe for cooking beef kidneys rang a bell in my mother’s long forgotten recipe repertoire. Kidney stew with noodles appeared frequently on the dinner table. (Also bearing in mind, before and during World War II, “organ meats” or “offal” were cheap and unrationed. While browsing through the pages of Our Home Cookery, I also noticed a recipe for “mock duck” that is exactly the way a mock turkey recipe was made by my sister in law years ago. Interesting!
But it isn’t the printed pages of “Our Home Cookery” that captures my attention; it is, at the back of the book, recipes written in Grandma B’s own handwriting. This is really the piece de resistance in this copy of “Our Home Cookery”.
First there is a recipe for Blackberry Wine, followed by recipes for mustard pickles – there are some pages of recipes clipped from newspapers or magazines – a recipe for “stuffed and baked mangoes” (but the mangoes in this recipe are bell peppers…in Grandma B’s time—as well as my mother’s –bell peppers were called “mangoes” and I don’t think that was common anywhere else in the USA (write to me if you know otherwise!). Grandma’s stuffed and baked mangoes appear to be the same recipe my mother used. This is followed by a recipe for Upside Down cake, then one for Apple Sauce cake and a third for Angel Food cake—both of these pages are heavily stained . The following page contains recipes for “Hungry Cake”, one for cookies and another for cream puffs. (my mother made cream puffs; they may have been the same recipe—I will do my best to type up some of these recipes.) Next page contains recipes written in pencil for lemon snaps and “Churngold Dutch Apple Cake” – Churngold was and still is a brand-name for margarine. Margarine has been around since 1869.
Some of the pages are missing, ending on page 395 with directions for “keeping apples fresh all winter” and “curing ham or other meat for smoking”. Per Google and an entry for the cookbook by the Library of Congress, the book should have had 400 pages.
Here is the recipe for stewed kidneys, as directed in “Our Home Cyclopedia”:
Split the kidneys and peel off the outer skin as before (in a previous recipe titled Kidneys, Broiled or Roasted); slice them thin on a plate, dust them with flour, pepper and salt; brown some flour in butter in a stewpan; dilute with a little water; mix smooth and in it cook the sliced kidneys. Let them simmer but do not boil. They will cook in a very short time. Butter some slices of toast and lay on a hot dish and pour over it the stewed kidneys, gravy and all.
*Sandy’s cooknote: my mother cooked noodles to place the cooked kidneys onto. And I may be mistaken but I think my mother soaked the kidneys, like liver, in a bowl of vinegar before cooking it).
GRANDMA BECKMAN’S BLACKBERRY WINE
To every gallon of berries take one gallon of water; let stand 2 days and 2 nights covered with mosquito bar [netting] then strain.
To every gallon put 3 lbs of crushed sugar [before granulated was invented—you had to do your own crushing of the sugar) and dissolve & stir well; bottle and let stand open 2 days, then put the corks on loosely until fermentation ceases then put corks on tight but not too tight for fear of bursting bottles.
STUFFED AND BAKED MANGOES*
½ lb each ground pork and beef
½ cup of rice
1 onion, chopped fine
Mix with cracker crumbs and fill mangoes* put into pan and cover with tomatoes or pureed tomatoes.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: I have written about bell peppers being called “mangoes” in several of my earlier posts. As far as I know, bell peppers were called mangoes only in the Midwest or around Cincinnati. I remembered seeing bell peppers advertised as “mangoes” in supermarkets when I was 18 or 19 years old. In 1961 when Jim & I first moved to California, we met a wonderful couple named Teresa and Jim Keith. Teresa was a seasoned cook from Louisiana. When she asked me what I cooked, I mentioned “stuffed mangoes” (not KNOWING that mangoes are a fruit and well known in California). “Oh?” she said. “How do you make those?” and I proceeded to describe mixing together ground meat, rice, tomato sauce and egg and “putting that into the mangoes and cooking it in tomato sauce”. I don’t know how we ever figured out that MY mangoes were not HER mangoes. But this begged the question, in my mind, HOW bell peppers came to be called “mangoes” in the Midwest. I finally found an explanation in one of my canning cook books. See footnote below.) Meanwhile, here is Grandma
Beckman’s Applesauce Cake recipe:
GRANDMA B’S APPLESAUCE CAKE
1 ½ CUPS sugar
¾ cup shortening
1/8 tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup water
1 cup raisins
2 cups flour
Bake ¾ hour. Makes 1 large loaf
(*Sandy’s cooknote: Grandma doesn’t offer any directions. SHE knew how to make her applesauce cake and the cookbook wasn’t intended for other eyes.
So, what I suggest is this: cream together sugar and shortening. Sift together the flour, baking soda and spices. Add it the shortening and sugar mixture. Mix well. Stir in the raisins, applesauce and ¼ cup water. Mix well. Place into a large greased and floured loaf pan (or two smaller ones) and bake at 350 degrees.)
I had a second thought – maybe you should plump up the raisins with the ¼ cup water and then let it cool before adding to the cake.
Grandma’s Churngold Dutch Apple Cake
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP sugar
1 cup milk
3 TBSP melted churngold (*use margarine or butter)
Beat egg until light and add milk alternately with dry ingredients. Add churngold and beat light. Spread dough ½” thick in greased tins. Arrange with apple slices in rows sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. (presumably, then bake @ 350 degrees until the cake is done.)
Sandy’s footnote: *In Jeanne Lesem’s cookbook “Preserving Today” she writes,[about Mock Mangoes] “Mangoes were a popular nineteenth century pickle in the United States—not the aromatic tropical fruit we savor today, but stuffed fruits and vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce, somewhat similar to authentic Indian mango pickles. William Woys Weaver writes in A Quaker Woman’s Cookbook (1982)’They became popular in England during the eighteenth century, mostly as a less expensive substitute for the real imported article…the pickle was popularized in this country through English cookbooks…Green bell peppers were generally used for ‘mangoes’ in Pennsylvania and western Maryland, and muskmelons in Tidewater Maryland. Other cooks used tomatoes, peaches or cucumbers.”
Coincidentally, “Our Home Cyclopedia” was reprinted in 2010 and is available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Barnes & Noble prices start at $23.26 while Amazon offers the book for $26.41 new or $19.95 used.
Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook Collecting!