Monthly Archives: February 2012


Sandy’s cooknote: this is a story I have been planning to write ever since I made a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 2009. It was during that visit that my friend, Sharon Prue, gave me a handwritten cookbook that had belonged to her mother and grandmother.

I tried to talk her out of giving the worn little cookbook to me but she could not be dissuaded. “You really like something like this,” she said. “I don’t know of anyone who would appreciate it as much as you.”

“I’ll treasure it,” I promised, and I took a photograph of Sharon reading her family cookbook. Now, several events conspired against me since acquiring the cookbook in August of 2009. One, I kept misplacing the photograph. When I found the photograph, I would have misplaced the cookbook.

I can imagine you are wondering how anyone could repeatedly misplace either a photograph or a cookbook – my only defense is this: I have over 10,000 cookbooks and that doesn’t take into consideration thousands of other books Bob & I acquired over the years—biographies, autobiographies, history, fiction, travel – and my photo collection is mostly contained in over 50 photo albums with hundreds of loose photographs stored in boxes and tins.

Then, in 2010, Sharon wrote a short story about her grandmother, Alice Maude Fishleigh, and sent it to me and our mutual friend, Doreen – and I knew that Sharon’s story belonged with the photograph and the cookbook. THEN I misplaced my printed copy about Sharon’s grandmother. I thought I would never find the missing story. (My only defense regarding losing the story is that I have reams of articles and stories and other printed material that I have accumulated over the years—and in 2008, we moved; lock, stock and barrel with over 600 boxes of books and other household belongings. It took over a year to get everything unpacked.)

Recently, I began going carefully through a big box of my writing files trying to decide what to keep, what to throw away. Wait! That’s part of the problem – I never throw anything away. And sure enough, I found the missing pages, clearly titled in my own handwriting, “Sharon’s Grandmother”.

And so now, for the first time, I have all the components of a very good story—and a photograph to go with it. I think I should start with Sharon’s essay, which she titled “PEOPLE COME AND GO” – written by Sharon Prue:

Sharon wrote “There’s an email out there that I keep receiving from time to time. I can’t remember all the words in it but it talks about the people who come into and out of our lives. Some of these people remain in our lives throughout the years while others are there for just a short time.

I believe they come into our lives for a reason and only stay because we need them as much as they need us. Those others who have left may touch our lives in a very small way but that contact experience provides us with useful information which we will use at some point on our journey through life.

I am going o start to think about all those people who have meant so much to me over the years, those ones that have been long gone. My grandmother, my parents, my dog Boo-Boo and possibly my brother Bob were the most important things in my life as a child.

I grew up in a household where my grandmother lived with us, my dad worked long hours in the warmer months because he worked at a canning factory and my mother was back teaching full time after both Bob and I were in school. We always had a housekeeper in those days who cooked lunch for Dad, Grandma and the children and she even started dinner sometimes. Teresa cleaned the house and did laundry and made the beds every Monday through Friday. I was supposed to make my bed and clean my room but most of the time. I didn’t.

Grandma would help mom get dinner on the table and sometimes dad would make it home for a quick supper before heading back to the plant or sometimes, in the summertime, if he had some free time, he would head to Niagara-On-The-Lake for an evening sail. Mom was off teaching in the summer but she didn’t like to sail. Bob and I were supposed to help with the dishes but because we fought like crazy, I had to do [the dishes] one day and he had to do them the next. I can remember my grandmother ironing in the laundry room and using that mangle* to press the bed sheets. [*a mangle was a large machine that pressed fabric, such as sheets, by passing them through (heated) rollers. My own mother had one that took up a lot of space in the kitchen. I think my mother used it a few times and then it became a catch-all for odds and ends in the kitchen—sls]

Grandma would be downstairs early in the winter and get the hot porridge ready in the double boiler. One day a week she made Red River cereal because Bob liked it, but the other days we had oatmeal or cream of wheat.

Both my parents were very strict with us kids and the belt ruled when we were bad, something I never used with my son. Dad had a terrible temper and poor Bob got it worse than I did so sometimes he ran away. Once he ran away and I heard mom and dad crying and the police were called. Bob was found out behind out back fence later in the night. I never ran away but sure felt like it at times. Mom would sometimes fight with Dad over Bob and how Dad handled him, and I remember her once leaving the dining room table in tears. Grandma never interfered and never said a word when this was going on.

Grandma was very loving and caring with those years she lived with us…she darned socks, she knitted and quilted and did needlepoint. She sewed and sewed and mended, and she made the best graham muffins! I don’t ever remember her reading books but her bible was always beside her. I don’t remember her going to church She was always supportive of mom, and Bob and I, but when I look back, I don’t remember any relationship that she had with Dad, but she must have, living in the same house. Grandma comforted us when we were not well (I remember the mustard plasters) and she comforted us when we were upset about things. She was definitely a hands-on grandma who would hold us on her lap and hug us.

I don’t think Grandma ever had a job before she came to live with mom and dad. I know because of health reasons she moved from her home in Oshawa down here to Niagara to live after mom and dad adopted Bob. Mom and Dad had a built-in babysitter, but rather than use grandma for that, they usually hired a babysitter to watch us when they went out for an evening. I know she liked to listen to her radio to the various talk shows that were on and she rarely watched TV. Radio was big back in the early 50s.

I never saw grandma in a pair of slacks or shorts. She always wore a dress; she had day dresses, afternoon dresses and evening special wear dresses, and she wore stockings and a girdle. And those heavy black laced shoes.

My story continues with a few finishing touches on Grandma, Alice Maude Fishleigh (nee Hamley). I do know she married at the age of 18 which she said was too young. She always told me that I should do everything I wanted to do while I was young, before I got married and started a family. I followed her advice. I know she was happily married to my grandpa who I never met because mom always told me that she never heard them argue or fight about anything. Grandma came from a big family and if I remember correctly, she and Grandpa Theodore (Ted) raised her younger sister—I can’t remember her name—when her parents died. Mom used to say she idolized that aunt like a grown-up sister. The aunt died when she was in her 20s, just after she got married. Grandma had my mom late in life; she was a surprise baby. My grandparents had lost a son when he was a child (long before mom came along) and I think it was from scarlet fever or something like that.

Mom grew up almost like an only child, doted on by two older parents who offered her every opportunity they could afford. My grandpa worked for a famous piano company in Oshawa, but in his spare time he was very active on the local sports scene. He took his daughter, my mother, everywhere and involved her in sports, hence why mom was tennis champion of Ontario when she was in her teens. Grandma never worked outside the home or got involved in sports.

When Grandpa died suddenly of a massive heart attack at the age of 58, mom was in her first year at Queen’s University in Kingston (she was only 16 years old!) Mom thought she would have to quit school and go to work but one of Grandma’s brothers (I never knew him either) owned a bookstore and was financially secure so he sent my mother through her years of university.

As I have mentioned before, Grandma as never the disciplinarian but I do remember this one incident when she was watching my brother and I, and Bob did a big no-no. I can’t remember what it was but I believe he said a swear word. She pulled him by the ears over to the kitchen sink where she proceeded to wash his mouth out with soap.

Grandma was a tall, big-boned woman but not overweight. I remember she had thinning gay hair which she pulled back into a bun at the back with bobby pins. I never saw her with her hair down and she always wore glasses. She wore clip earrings which she would let me try on sometimes. I don’t remember her wearing anything else except maybe a brooch when she when out, and she always wore a wrist watch.

Grandma lived with us until I was about thirteen, when she fell in her bedroom and broke her hip, from which she never recovered enough to walk again. We tried to look after her at home but it was too difficult and she went into a nursing home a couple of doors away. I popped in to see her often before she passed away from a stroke when I was 15. She was 84 years old. My last memory of her was that of her lying in bed, frantic that I get away from there before the other woman in the room came in and hurt me. I came home crying and upset and my mom told me that Grandma was having many little mini-strokes which caused her to behave that way. That same week, we received a call in the night that she had passed away.

Grandma had two sisters who I did meet and knew a little about through letters over the years. They came for a few visits from out west in Red Deer Alberta every so often. Aunt Lottie and Aunt Edna remained single all of their lives and died at 98 and 103 in a nursing home out west. Mom had gone out to visit them on the one aunt’s 100th birthday. What’s interesting about them is that the two sisters headed out west to Hollywood when they were young and both got jobs in the movie industry. I believe they worked in the clerical end of things but not sure where or what and sure wish I knew that today.

I think I have written everything that I can remember about my precious grandmother. She embodied all those qualities of what I think a grandma should be; I can only hope that I carry on some of those today, thanks to her.” – Sharon Prue

“The Cookbook” Sharon entrusted to me is an old lined notebook with a black cover that is mostly worn away. On the inside cover is written, in blue ink, Theo’s Ration Card No PH 180198. Followed by the following recipe for constipation:

½ lb dates
½ lb figs
2 oz senna leaves
Put through meat grinder 3 or 4 times, then roll in small balls. Eat 2 at night.

Beneath that are two names and addresses, one that of a Mrs Dibb who lived in Bogota NJ, USA and the other for a Mr. J.R. Dick of Pomona California. Next are some loose pieces of paper; one offers a recipe for Grape-nuts pie and Scones. Next is a neatly folded sheet of paper from the Oshawa Tennis Club, dated September 13, 1945, inviting Dear Sir or Madam to attend a meeting. There is also a lovely handwritten recipe for chocolate cake that appears to be lengthy and perhaps a little complicated by today’s standards.

The book has lined pages and starts with cake recipes – New Chocolate Cake, Coronation Cake, Eagle cake, Chocolate Cake with Marshallow (sic) icing, Crumb Cake and King Tut Cake. The paper at the bottom of the pages is mostly worn away for Eagle Cake and King Tut Cake. There are recipes for Black George Cake, Peel Cake (made with ¾ lb of mixed candied fruit) as well as oat cakes, scones, date bars, sponge loaf cake, King Edward Cake, Sponge cake with the notation 1st prize at Oshawa Fair, Johnny Cake (which I think is a corruption of Journey Cake, a cornmeal cake that dates back to early pioneer times), Gold Cake and Mrs. Begin’s Fudge Cake—written in a different handwriting. Pasted inside the following page are two newspaper clippings for “Christmas Cake No. 2” and “A Cake of Unusual Flavor. Loose on this page is a full page recipe for Christmas Gift Cakes provided by a Mrs. Florence Stallwood who has won prizes at the Canadian National Exhibition and, when she lived at Jarvis Ontario, her cooking won prizes at the fall fair. At the bottom of the page is printed “Weekend Picture Magazine, Vol 3, No 47 – 195- (presumably from the 1950s—the last number in the date is missing) Mrs. Stallwood’s cake calls for sherry or brandy but she said that grape juice will do just as well. Also kept loose on this page were recipes for orange pudding, butterscotch squares and Chinese Chews. The recipe for Butterscotch Squares is written in a very fine handwriting and signed “Ethel Lysett”.

On the following page, under a recipe for boiling icing, is a recipe for what appears to be a cookie, called Trilbies. Never having heard of Trilbies, I Googled it only to learn that a Trilby was a kind of hat or fedora popular in men’s fashions in the 1930s! THIS particular Trilby appears to be a cookie with a date filling.

Next are some recipes for seven minute frostings, and recipes for date loaf and date cakes- and the page after that is a large newspaper clipping featuring (much to my delight) a lot of sauce recipes. After some dessert recipes for ice box pudding and apple snow, Apple fritters and carrot pudding, I found a variety of clippings from newspapers and pasted onto the pages. One page is filled with chicken recipes—chicken patties and chicken salad as well as a Jellied Chicken Salad. The following page continues with summer salads and some omelet recipes.

After this – there are many empty pages in Grandma’s cookbook. Then, closer to the end of the book, I found a recipe for Ginger Beer, more loose clippings, a few more cookie recipes – Fruit Jumbles, Shortbread, and Cocoanut Macaroons – then, to my surprise, a collection of canning recipes – cranberry jelly, Tomato butter, spiced beets, uncooked tomato sauce, chopped mustard pickle, something called Indian Sauce, crabapple catsup, tomato fruit relish, Mrs Henry’s Gooseberries. Nine Day Sweet Pickle—and then another surprise, some homemade candy recipes also clipped from a newspaper, some handwritten candy recipes – and final surprise, a recipe for making Witch hazel.

Almost in shreds is this recipe for fruit and nut filling. This could be used in any recipe that calls for a fruit and/or nut filling or you could use it as a spread between layers of cake, as a change from frosting:
Empty the contents of a smallest size tin of evaporated milk* into the top of a double boiler. Add 1 TBSP boiling water, 2 TBSP sugar, 1 TBSP yellow portion or orange rind (finely grated) and 1 cup chopped dates. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then cook over hot water until the mixture thickens. Remove from the fire and add 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/3 cup finely chopped walnut meats. Cool thoroughly before spreading.

*sandy’s cooknote: I have to guess what the size of “the smallest tin of evaporated milk” may have been over 50 years ago. I turned to Google and the general consensus at most sites was 5 ounces. I would have guessed about 4 ounces or half a cup but given the other ingredients, 5 ounces sounds good to me.

Grandma’s handwritten cookbook contains a lot of recipes using dates. Here is a recipe for Fruit Jumbles:

1½ cups white sugar
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 lb dates
¼ lb walnuts, chopped
3 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 TBSP warm water
Beat butter and sugar together; add beaten eggs, then flour, fruit, vanilla and last the baking soda. Drop teaspoonfuls onto buttered or parchment-lined baking sheets and bake in moderate (350 degrees) oven.
Sandy’s cooknote: Grandma doesn’t tell us what temperature to bake the jumbles at; try baking for 10 minutes and adjust baking time as needed.


Recently, I wrote and shared with you my thoughts about the latest Springfield, Missouri cookbook, titled “WOMEN WHO CAN DISH IT OUT” and I may have mentioned in passing that this was the latest offering from the Junior League of Springfield, Missouri, since their 1985 publication of “SASSAFRAS” which—although it has been out of print for a while, is still available through sources such as (I was totally non-plussed to find copies listed at $500.00 each on! Does anyone really pay that much for a single cookbook? And not even an antique cookbook at that!

One of the things I like about “Sassafas!” is the thickness of the cookbook– (I like to feel I am getting my money’s worth…don’t you?) In the introduction to the 10th anniversary special edition (which is what I own), we learn that more than four thousand recipes were submitted to the cookbook committee to be considered for this cookbook. The selection of 726 of the most outstanding recipes made the final cut.

And from the Junior League comes this accolade: “The Missouri Ozarks are known for great landscapes, renowned musical talent and “down-home” cooking. Even if you can’t visit this beautiful area, you can still experience the taste of its cuisine in this delicious assortment of recipes. Sassafras! is a collection of 726 outstanding recipes, all of which have been triple tested. You can go from savory Soups and Sandwiches to sumptuous Desserts in seconds with the laminated tabbed dividers. Put smiles on faces and bring back warm family memories of home cooked goodness with recipes like Stroganoff Steak Sandwiches, Country Cottage Potato Salad or Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. And don’t forget dessert with recipes for Orange Pecans, Frisco Whistle-Stop Cake and much more. This cookbook is definitely a regional classic and your kitchen should not be without it.”

Reading author Janet Dailey’s* introduction made me want to start planning a spring or fall vacation in the Ozarks. She writes, in part, “Spring bursts forth with the promise of warmer weather; the hills come alive with color as the dogwood, redbud and wild plum trees and forsythia bloom into amazing rainbows of white, lavender, pink and yellow. May shades of green cover our hills in the summer-an exquisite contrast to the bright blue sky above.
In the fall, the hills catch fire-ablaze with the flaming colors of the red sumac and dogwood, the rusty orange and yellow of the oak and sycamore, and just the right mixture of cedar and evergreen…year round Ozarkians marvel at the mists that drift through our valleys. On a sunny morning when the sun hits it just right, you can stand on the shore of a misty lake, surrounded by rainbows. It’s a fleeting sight but the magical memory will stay with you forever…”

Janet Dailey also comments on the native sassafras tree, unique to the Ozarks. She writes, “The deer love the tree’s bright green twigs in the spring and birds feast on its berries in the fall. Furniture makers consider it a treat to build items from sassafras wood, and float stream enthusiasts prize a sassafras paddle above all others. And who doesn’t enjoy a delicious cup of sassafras tea, often thought of as a cure-all….”

*Sandy’s cooknote: Janet Dailey’s first book was published in 1976. She has written over one hundred novels since then.

Sassafras! The cookbook starts out with a series of menus for all kinds of occasions, beginning with New Year’s Day on January 1 and ending with Christmas Day, December 25th – with some unique menus in-between ranging from National Ice Cream Day in July, PTA Founders Day in February and Johnny Appleseed Day in March. I am charmed with the prospect of celebrating the First Day of Autumn on September 22 with creamy pralines (my favorite candy) or making Fall Harvest Cake to celebrate Harvest Moon Dinner on October 15.

And everyone is sure to enjoy a Decorate the Tree Brunch on December 15—the menu for this event is sure to catch your eye…you may want to borrow the entire menu for your next brunch.

You can tell that an enormous amount of work – and love – went into compiling Sassafras!

Each chapter is prefaced with a scenic local photograph that is almost but not quite sepia, done by photographers Jim Mayfield and Garry D. McMichael. Enjoy such landscapes as “The Spirit in the Stream” taken at Stone County, Missouri, the breath-taking “Twin Ponds and Storm” taken southwest of Nixa, Missouri, and “Fellows Lake Sunset” taken north of Springfield and “Cave Pond at Lost Valley” photographed at Ponca, Arkansas—I could happily travel to the Ozarks just to take pictures. I’m not sure I could choose just one as a favorite—but if I had to choose, perhaps I would settle on “Lost Cabin” near Garrison Missouri.

As for recipes – how many cookbooks offer over seven hundred recipes in one collection? It must have been a labor of love to go through four thousand entries and whittle it down to seven hundred plus—and a great deal of testing went on. It is noted in my 10th anniversary edition that all recipes were double tested and individually evaluated at least 8 times. I am particularly interested in appetizers and have marked recipes for Crabbies, Mushroom Crescents, Taquitos, Cheese Crisps, Orange Pecans, and Candied Bacon (you won’t believe how easy that one is—just 3 ingredients) as well as Peggy Pinckley’s Pickled Shrimp (that can be made up to 36 hours in advance, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms or Mushrooms Florentine, Hot Clam Dip or Bob Barker’s own recipe for Chili Con Queso (Did you know that Mr. Barker, of the Price is Right fame, is a former Springfieldian?) These are just a few, a small sampling, of the recipes to be found in Sassafras! under Appetizers.

But wait! That’s just the beginning—there are eleven other categories to be found in Sassafras!

I love making homemade soups and it’s always a delight to find new and unusual recipes to try – recipes such as Cornucopia Potage (made with roast beef or stew meat), Pozole Blanco (made with pork hocks), Savory Steak Soup (made with round steak), Limerick Soup (made with corned beef—what else?), Crab Bisque and Clam Chowder au Vin (with the addition of a little dry white wine), Mock Turtle Soup (a familiar soup to Buckeyes from Ohio), Cream of Wild Rice Soup (quite a simple recipe, actually), Hearty Cheese Soup, Broccoli Cream Soup, Carrot Ginger Soup, and others. Accompanying Soups are sandwich recipes you will surely want to try, such as Pita Pizza, easy enough for children to fix, French Dip Sandwiches (serves 6 to 8 so there’s enough for a party) an Stroganoff Steak Sandwich, which sounds like a lot of fun and serves 6.

Under Salads and Dressings you will find Avocado Extraordinaire, Raspberry Vinaigrette Toss (a recipe from the Nancy Parker Cooking School in Greenville Texas), A Wonderful Walnut Salad which contains blue cheese—and two cups of English walnuts—recipes such as Snow pea Salad, Epicurean Salad, Hearts of Palm Salad, Mandarin Orange Salad, my favorite Wilted Lettuce Salad or Spinach and Strawberries, made with fresh spinach and a pint of fresh strawberries – yum!

There are many other salad recipes including Hot German Potato Salad, Shrimp Potato Salad, and Tomato Aspic. Crab Stuffed Eggs, Artichoke Rice Salad, Calico Salad (one of my favorites—this is a recipe you can make up in advance and leftovers will keep in the frig…the recipe states up to 3 days in the frig—but I have kept leftover Calico Salad in the frig for several weeks. There is a Zucchini Marinade and a variation of my personal favorite Marinated tomatoes, Greek Mushroom Salad and Dragon Lady Salad, Taco Salad Caliente, Old-Fashioned Apple Salad and Ozark Blueberry Salad…plus lots more!

The section simply identified as “BREADS” is divided up under yeast breads, non-yeast breads, quick breads, muffins, coffee cakes, Breakfast Breads and Butters. I always keep dry yeast on hand—those who read this blog regularly know that I often make cool rise cinnamon rolls—I am looking forward to making Caraway Rye Bread and Quaker Bread, Crescent rolls and Pronto Pizza Dough. You will surely want to try the Sassafras! recipe for Crispy Garlic bread, Ozark Persimmon Bread, Blueberry Lemon Bread o Butter Pecan Bread, Apple Butter Bread or Aloha Loaf…and if you love to bake and eat muffins, try Sassafras! recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins, or Banana Muffins, or Cheery Cherry Muffins. Also be sure to check out the recipe for Pineapple Brunch Cakes which is made with a surprise ingredient (English muffins!) – Serve these with an egg casserole and Bloody Marys at your next brunch.
(I can’t wait to make Pineapple Brunch cakes!)

You might know this about me by now – I do a lot of jelly and jam making throughout the year – and I am always on the lookout for new or unusual canning recipes. I learned how to make corn cob jelly a year or so ago—am now wondering how long it would take anyone to figure out the secret ingredient in Dandelion jelly? There is also a recipe for cinnamon jelly—I make this but call mine candy apple jelly. Also new (to me) are recipes for Christmas Cranberry Jelly (made with cranberry juice) and Chablis Mint Jelly, Polynesian Preserves (mashed banana and crushed pineapple!) and Razzmatazz Preserves (made with frozen red raspberries. Cinna-Berry Jam I made with frozen blueberries and the flavor from cinnamon sticks, and Spiced Pear Jam is similar to apple butter and worthy of your attention (**Pears are in season and on sale here in the Antelope Valley as I write this, so Spiced Pear Jam is at the top of my to-do list).

Also in this category is a recipe for Mountain Apple Marmalade, Cranberry Chutney and Winning Watermelon Pickles. Other prize winning recipes are Pickled Black Eyed Peas, Bread and Butter Pickles and Osage Corn Relish. Don’t overlook Green Tomato Relish or Patchwork Relish, Barn Raisin’ Chili Sauce—and summer sausage! Sugar and Spice Pecans! Dulcimer Spice Mix! (I rest my case).

Under the category titled Vegetables and Hot Fruits you will find such goodies as Ozark Lima Beans, Beets In Orange Sauce, Old Settler’s Baked Beans—and lots of other choices for side dishes. Want to try something different? Think Lemon-Basil Carrots made with a pound of baby carrots, Church Supper Cauliflower, Eggplant Soufflé that is a 50-year old recipe still high on the request list—or South of the Border Eggplant, or Eggplant Palermo (all good to keep in mind when you have a glut of eggplant in your garden!)

I love the sound of Hill Hollow Hominy, as well as Manchurian Mushrooms, Swiss Onions Dijon, Sherried Onions (which go well with either meats or poultry), or perhaps New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas (I first tasted black-eyed peas made like this when we lived in Florida and I became friends with a Puerto Rican family.)

There are several recipes using my favorite vegetable, spinach, so I can try Heart’s Delight Spinach, Onions Florentine, Spinach Supreme and Spinach with Rice—all four recipes use frozen spinach, which I always keep available in the freezer.

And when you have a glut of squash in your garden (or even when you don’t) be sure to try Orange-Pecan Stuffed Squash, or Acorn Squash & Apples, or Sensational Squash that uses up two pounds of your fresh summer squash.

Under the chapter titled PASTA & RICE, EGGS & CHEESE, you will find a nice variety of brunch recipes starting with Brunch Eggs Florentine, Cheese Topper Casserole, El-egg-ant Brunch and Fancy Egg Scramble, but there are other recipes you will want to try as well, such as a Cheese Strata that serves 10 to 12 and is a one-dish meal using broccoli.

There is an easy recipe for making Chili Rellenos or a Mushroom Frittata. There is an Artichoke Quiche made with 6-oz jars of marinated artichoke hearts (one of the items I always have on my pantry shelves) and a recipe called Quiche-Me-Quick that is versatile and can be adapted by changing some of the ingredients around.

The chapter titled “Meats” offers recipes using veal, beef, pork, sausage, and lamb. Also included are some great sauce recipes (I love sauce recipes and have written about them before on this blog). BEEF takes center stage in this chapter, offering no less than twenty-eight recipes! (Pork comes in 2nd place with twelve recipes while there are four recipes for lamb, three for veal and two for sausage.

Check out the recipes for Beef Tenderloin in Wine Sauce that calls for one cup of dry red wine (I usually keep a bottle of burgundy wine on hand for recipes such as this one but I also use burgundy wine to make my favorite pepper steak and beef burgundy). There is a simple recipe for making Tenderloin on Tap that is so simple, it should be in every good cook’s recipe file—really only three ingredients if you don’t count the seasoning or Worcestershire sauce—but it’s made with 2 cans of beer!

There is Peppered Rib Eye that serves 8 and should be nice for a small dinner party—the committee also notes that it makes great sandwiches too. Another way to use up leftovers is the recipe for Roast Beef Stroganoff that calls for 4 cups of cooked roast beef cut into 1×1/4” strips. Their recipe for Green Pepper Steak while similar to mine, is different enough to give it a try. If you have a flank steak on hand, you may want to fire up the grill to make the Sassafras! recipe for Steak Teriyaki but there are also recipes for Steak Flambé that also goes on the grill as does Savory Shishkebob. My personal favorite, however, is Boeuf Bourguignonne which is made with three pounds of beef stew meat and can be served over rice or noodles. Another good one for a small dinner party for Marinated Chuck Roast (serves 10 to 12) that will have guests requesting the recipe.

There are 22 recipes using chicken not counting 6 for chicken casseroles, plenty of recipes for seafood and fish—and enough recipes under Desserts to fill a small cookbooklet. There are “dessert” recipes such as cherries jubilee and Elegant Lemon Roll – as well as cheesecakes, seventeen cake recipes, twenty for pies, twenty-one for cookies & bars and sixteen for candy. My family’s favorite recipe for Buckeyes is also included, as well as English Toffee and Creamy Pralines.

I apologize for not going into more detail at this point –but this review is already well over 2000 words. What I want to say is this: if you didn’t have another cookbook on your shelves, you would want to have a copy of sassafras! It is easily available.
Sassafras! is a wonderful book of recipes for any kitchen.

Currently there are 97,500 copies in print! I found 37 new/used copies listed on, starting at $2.94. And, you will find copies available from a slew of used book sources, including Ebay. Prices vary; you may want to Google the book title and shop around. And, just since I started to write about “Sassafras”, I learned that copies are still available directly from the Junior League of Springfield; visit for more information.

I was writing a review on “Women Who Can Dish It Out” when I
realized that I had a copy of the Junior League’s earlier cookbook endeavor, Sassafras! and I began rediscovering it. This cookbook is a treasure trove of great recipes.

Check it out!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting



Some time ago, I mentioned acquiring some cookbooks that had belonged to my friend Sharon’s mother. Unfortunately, I didn’t mark any of these in any way to differentiate between those of Sharon’s mother and others I acquired when I was in Ontario, Canada, in 2009 and Sharon and I visited some used book stores—OR those sent to me by my Michigan penpal, Betsy, who began sending me a lot of Canadian cookbooks when she learned of my interest.

So, other community cookbooks from Canada found their way onto my bookshelves. However, that being said, I think that many of the Canadian community cookbooks originally belonged to Sharon’s mother. Sharon has a few cookbooks that she’s kept—some of whi
ch came from me!

A Sandychatter subscriber expressed interest in these Canadian Community cookbooks and requested a list of the titles, so that she can look for some of these books. My subscriber is a former Canadian now living in the USA but she writes that she & her husband frequently “go home” to Canada to visit friends and relatives. So, Marie, the following is for you. Perhaps having a list of titles will enable you to find more of the books you are interested in. And making frequent trips to Ontario might make finding some of them more accessible. I will ask Sharon if she remembers the name of the used book store we visited on our way to Ft Erie one day when I was in Canada.

The following list is not restricted to Canadian community cookbooks; many of the not-necessarily-community cookbooks have been included because I found them interesting and perhaps while not “community” cookbooks in the strictest sense of the word are regional cookbooks.

PURITY COOK BOOK 875 TEST RECIPES Purity Flour Mills Toronto, 1932 reprinted 1945, hardcover nicely done!

CENTENNIAL COOKBOOK CHURCH OF CHRIST, FENWICK, ONTARIO, CIRCA 1946, spiral bound, photo of church on cover, larger than most cookbooks, more like 8½ x 11” in size. From Sharon’s mother.

FAVOURITE RECIPES BOOK NO. 2, LADY GREY CHAPTER I.O.D.E., Ft. William, Ontario. Blue cover with insignia of Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire 1946. *Sandy’s cooknote: I believe I bought this book in Tulsa, Oklahoma in August 1973. The handwritten date inside the book is in my handwriting!

THE BLACK WHALE COOKBOOK/Fine old recipes from the Gaspe coast. Soft cover booklet compiled by Mrs. Ethel Renouf. Not a community cookbook but interesting collection of old recipes handed down from Mother to Daughter. 1948.

BRITISH COLUMBIA ELECTRIC LADIES CLUB, COOKBOK. 1948, soft cover, New Westminster, B.C. Booklet was compiled by the BC Electric’s Home Service Centre staffed by home economists.

THE FLYING SKILLET, RCAF STATION ROCKCLIFFE, sponsored by The Women’s Auxiliary RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 1954, offset printing handwritten entries, spiral bound. (One of my favorites!)


DUTCH OVEN, cookbook of coveted traditional recipes from the kitchens of Lunenburg, spiral bound, 8th edition 1963, offset printing, all contributors handwritten recipes. Another favorite!




P.B. THE CANADIAN COOKOOK, Mme. Jehane Benoit, 1970


FAVORITE RECIPES, KITIMAT LION L’S KITIMAT, BRITISH COLUMBIA, spiral bound, but undated. However, 1973-74 is handwritten on the dedication page.

FAVOURITE RECIPES FROM THE LADIES OF CENTRAL UNITED CHURCH, LUNENBURG, NOVA SCOTIA, 1974, Stapled booklet, recipes all offset printing, oddly printed in blue ink, a few recipes difficult to read but otherwise interesting with recipes accompanied at times with cute little illustrations.

THE EARLY CANADIAN GALT COOKBOOK, Originally published 1898 BY THE LADIES OF GALT compiled and edited by Margaret Taylor and Frances McNaught ; facsimile published by Coles Publishing Toronto 1974 soft cover, bound. Many listings on Google; none explain who “the ladies of Galt” were.

TEMPTING TREATS FROM ONTARIO MAPLE BUSHES, published by Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, spiral bound, January 1976


FROM OUR KITCHEN TO YOURS, GOOD NEWS UNITED STAMFORD UNITED CHURCH, NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO, spiral bound, blue cover with picture of the church, undated! However, there is a recipe for hot wings which leads me to think this was a 1970s cookbook.

NEWFOUNDLAND RECIPES from the Kitchens of Newfoundland, soft cover booklet by Carol Over, many printings. Many signed recipes from contributors, definitely a local flavor—Moose Pot Pie and Moose Stew, Fried Cod Tongues, Moose cabbage rolls, something called Bangbelly (a traditional Christmas Eve Dish) – and what are partridgeberries and where can I buy some? 1st printed 1979.

TO SUIT ALL TASTES—A Bicentennial Cookbook Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, Ontario spiral bound 1980.



UWC GOURMET COLLECTION (University Woman’s Club of St Catharines, 1983, spiral bound.

TASTE NIAGARA, THE PRESERVATIOPN OF AGRICULTURAL LANDS SOCIETY, written & compiled by Garcia Janes, Ontario 1984, spiral bound.

THE LAURA SECORD CANADIAN COOK BOOK, ring binding, Canadian Home Economics Association, 1984

A TASTE OF VANCOUVER, RECIPES FOM THE CHEFS OF CANADA’S WEST COAST, spiral binding, 1985 –not a community cookbook – but interesting!


CANADA COOKS! Microwave, spiral bound BY Ann Merling, 1988

THE LIGHTHOUSE COOKBOOK, Anita Stewart, Harbour Publishing, 1988

LET’S BREAK BREAD TOGETHER – UNITED CHURCHES IN CANADA, 1988, ring binding, Manitoba; contributions list churches not individuals.


NIAGARA FALLS CURLING CLUB LADIES SECTION casseroles, desserts and Christmas recipes, spiral bound, contains history of Niagara Falls Curling Club dating back to 1887, spiral bound, contains recipe for Harvey Wallbanger Cake (late 70s, early 80s?)


FIVE ROSES “A GUIDE TO GOOD COOKING” from Lake of the Woods Mills, Montreal, 25th edition undated! Soft cover, ring binding. Many recipes!

COOKING COLLAGE OF RODMAN HALL, St. Catharine’s, plastic ring binding, offset printing with individually handwritten recipes. Undated!

EDWARDSBURG RECIPE BOOK, the Canada Starch Co, booklet Montreal small booklet, undated! Looks very old judging by photographs—related to Argo Starch and Mazola oil?

TESTED REIPE USING CANADA’S CANNED FOODS, booklet, Home Economics section, American Can Company, Hamilton Ontario. Undated; photos look like 1950s.

A FAMILY TRADITION, THE MAGIC BAKING PODER COOKBOOK –booklet, Standard brands, undated, photo on cover looks like 1940s or 50s.

ZONTA CLUB, Niagara Falls, Ontario, undated, offset printing (so all recipes are individually written by participants), spiral bound, ads

OUR FAVORITE RECIPES/Dames Auxiliaires Paroisse des Saints-Martyrs Canadiens St Boniface, Manitoba, undated, spiral bound, ads.

“BE PREPARED” Niagara District Scouters Council, spiral bound with green cover, undated.




iF you know the publishing dates of the ones marked undated–feel free to write a correction to me!

Happy Cooking and happy cookbook collecting



At the request of Cynthia, here is the recpe for Chili – Somewhat Chasen’s, as it appeared in Fern Storer’s cookbook. But, read on:


Fern Storer, in her cookbook “Recipes Remembered/ a Collection of Modernized Nostalgia” writes the following under the heading “CHILI – SOMEWHAT CHASEN’s”

“When a Los Angeles friend sent me a newspaper clipping in 1974 giving vaguely the ingredients in the famous Chasen’s chili I made my own interpretation. Obviously other food writers* have made the same attempt – versions of the recipe now appear in numerous cookbooks. This one is not the authentic Chasen’s chili – that’s a well guarded secret—but it’s one we find especially good.

½ pound onions (about 3 medium)
2 large green peppers
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
2 TBSP bacon fat or oil
1½ lbs ground lean beef (see Note1)
½ lb ground pork (see Note 1)
2 (14½ oz) cans tomatoes, preferably Italian style in tomato puree (see Note 2)
2 cups water (rinse cans)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 TBSP chili powder (more, if desired)
1 tsp powdered cumin (comino)
2 TBSP packed brown sugar
½ tsp hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco sauce) (or ¼ tsp hot pepper flakes)
2 (1 lb each) cans pinto beans (plain—not chili seasoned)
Use a 3½ qt stainless Dutch oven or other heavy cooking pot*, conventional range (*I use a cast iron Dutch oven—sls)

Note 1 I sometimes buy the 2 lb package of ground beef and pork sold for meatloaf—use any desired proportion of pork and beef.

Note 2 Or use a 29 oz can of Italian style tomatoes and a 6-oz can of tomato paste.

Chop onions, dice green peppers and mince garlic. Heat the fat in cooking pot on medium heat, add the onions and green peppers and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften slightly—5 to 7 minutes. Scrape a place clean on pot bottom and add the garlic, cook 30 seconds and mix into the vegetables. Add the beef and pork, breaking it apart with a fork. Cook on medium-high heat stirring frequently, until no longer pink—about 10 minutes. While meat is cooking open the tomato and bean cans and set aside. In a glass measuring cup, mix together the salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and brown sugar.

Add the tomatoes, water, mixed seasonings and hot pepper sauce or flakes to the meat mixture, stirring thoroughly. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat so mixture simmers gently; cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. Add the pinto beans and their liquid and simmer 30 to 45 minutes longer, stirring occasionally with a straight-end stirrer or wooden paddle. Taste in last part of cooking and add more seasoning, if desired. Liquid should have a creamy consistency.

Note: I have written this recipe with less chili powder than is characteristic of many chili recipes. To add more, near end of cooking, stir a teaspoon or two of chili powder into a quarter cup of hot water and stir it into the simmering chili” – From Fern Storer’s RECIPES REMEMBERED

If you Google “Chasen’s Chili” you will get something like 14,000 hits and numerous recipes.

Robby Cress wrote the following in “Dear Old Hollywood” which I found on Google. The recipe appears to be the same one featured in The Los Angeles Times Cookbook.

Cress writes “From opening in 1936 until closing in 1995, Chasen’s was a Hollywood institution. The restaurant, which used to be located at the corner of Doheny Drive and Beverly Boulevard at the edge of Beverly Hills, hosted the greatest stars ever to appear on screen.

James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Ralph Bellamy, Frank Morgan and the rest of their “Boys Club” would gather every Wednesday at Chasen’s during the forties to eat, drink, sing, and catch up after their busy days working at the studios. In 1939, after Clark Gable and Carol Lombard introduced the newly arrived director from England, Alfred Hitchcock, to Chasen’s, the director and his wife would have their Thursday night dinners at the restaurant. The Jimmy Stewarts, Don Ameche (who introduced owner Dave Chasen to his wife Maude), George Burns and Gracie Allen, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder, David Niven, Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford – well, nearly every major star from the Golden Age of Hollywood dined at Chasen’s.

One of Chasen’s signature dishes was their chili. Elizabeth Taylor loved the chili so much that in 1962, while in Rome on location filming for Cleopatra, she paid $100 to have the chili shipped to her on dry ice! I love chili and knew I had to try the Chasen’s chili if it really is that good. Although the restaurant has been long closed, the book “Chasen’s: Where Hollywood Dined – Recipes and Memories” by Betty Goodwin, contains the recipe for this famous chili.

With winter here I could think of nothing better to cook up than a hot bowl of chili, so I took a try at making this Hollywood classic. Here is the recipe and the results from my cooking:

Chasen’s Chili

Prepping the Ingredients

1/2 pound dried pinto beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Gebhardt’s chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin

1. Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid.

2. Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or until tender.

3. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet saute bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and saute beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain. Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.

4. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn’t be too thick – it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim off excess fat and serve.
Makes 10 cups, or six main dish servings.

Cress recommends “For more of Chasen’s recipes I recommend picking up a copy of Goodwin’s book* In addition to the recipes are some intimate photographs of the stars who dined at Chasen’s as well as some fun anecdotes about the restaurant…”

*Sandy’s cooknote: Chasen’s Restaurant closed years ago but you may want to look for Betty Goodwin’s book “Chasen’s: Where Hollywood Dined – Recipes and Memories” I never ate there but I have friends who used to go there.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Betty Goodwin is also the author of “HOLLYWOOD DU JOUR; LOST RECIPES OF LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD HAUNTS” – which I have. However, Chasen’s Chili is not featured in this book, published in 1993 – it’s a fun read, anyway. The original Cobb Salad and grapefruit cake, both well known features of the Brown Derby Restaurant, are featured in this cookbook.

I found Chasen’s Chili also featured in “the L.A. GOURMET/FAVORITE RECIPES FROM FAMOUS LOS ANGELES RESTAUANTS” by Jeanne Voltz and Burks Hamner, published in 1971.

*Sandy’s cooknote—“The Los Angeles Times California Cookbook, (published in 1981 by Harry N. Abrams), one of my favorite recipe books in my California collection, offers a recipe similarly titled, “Chasing Chili” in which the authors note “For years we’ve been after the recipe for the real Chasen’s chili made famous by the Beverly Hills restaurant’s celebrated clientele. We finally caught up with one version that is allegedly authentic, but no one at Chasen’s will admit that it’s their recipe. Hence the name.

I collected S.O.S. columns from the L.A. Times for decades but stopped when the newspaper revamped their food pages to the point where I no longer recognized it or wanted whatever was being featured. But here is the Chasing Chili featured in the L.A. Times:

DEAR SOS: Please print the recipe for Chasen’s chili again. I bought your new cookbook, “Dear SOS,” but it wasn’t in the book.

DEAR JOYCE: Unfortunately, the chili recipe was one of hundreds that landed on the cutting room floor because of the book’s space restrictions. We call the dish “Chasing” chili because we have never been able to convince Chasen’s proprietor to share the recipe.

The recipe is from a reader who clipped it, she said, from a publication crediting the source as a friend who knew a waiter who knew a chef, etc. At best, it’s a facsimile (a good one, we hope).
See if you agree.


1/2 pound dry pinto beans
5 cups chopped tomatoes
1 pound green peppers, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably chuck
1 pound lean ground pork
1/3 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

In bowl soak beans in water to cover overnight. Drain. Cover with cold water and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Add tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes longer. Sauté green peppers in hot oil until tender. Add onions and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and parsley.

In another skillet, melt butter and add beef and pork. Cook, stirring, 15 minutes, or until crumbly and brown. Add meat to onion mixture and stir in chili powder. Cook 10 minutes. Add meat mixture to beans along with salt, pepper and cumin seeds.
Simmer, covered, 1 hour. Remove cover and simmer 30 minutes longer. Skim fat from top. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

I hope you find your missing cookbooks, Cynthia. I know what it’s like to lose some treasured cookbooks–been there and done that! Sandy



Some time ago, one of my Sandychatter subscribers suggested I provide some of the favorite fifties recipes. I said I would, but other matters took up most of my time the second half of 2011.

Recently, I was moving some cookbooks around (finding shelf space for all of them is a constant problem) and I came across some of my “fifties” cookbooks. I am also including in this category some cookbooks dedicated to “lost” or “forgotten” favorites.

If you lived through the 1950s, you may wonder what the fuss is all about – we didn’t think the foods we were eating at the time were anything special. Many households, like my mother’s, had certain dishes for certain days of the week. For instance, we almost always had salmon patties on Fridays, with either macaroni and cheese or macaroni and tomatoes, cottage cheese and some spinach—canned spinach, at that, with a little hardboiled egg on top. I am quite sure I never tasted fresh spinach until I was an adult and living in California. Occasionally, fish sticks substituted for the salmon patties (that some people refer to as salmon cakes) – now, salmon patties are still a favorite of mine but it boggles my mind that my mother fed 7 people with one can of salmon. I used one can of salmon to feed just Bob & myself for years. It was one of his favorite comfort foods. Mine too.

Perhaps once a week we would have beef stew – or it may have alternated with kidney stew that was served with noodles. If we had pork chops, there was sure to be a jar of homemade apple sauce to go with it. During World War II the Schmidt family—with my Grandma Schmidt leading the way—would make a vat full of apple sauce that was canned without sugar, which—you may or may not remember—was rationed during the war. For years after the war, we were allowed to sprinkle a little sugar on our very tart applesauce, made from sour cooking apples.

On Sundays we usually had a stewed chicken dinner with my mother’s library paste rice. My brother Bill insists to this day that he LIKED mom’s library past rice. No, it didn’t really contain library paste. It just tasted like it. I was an adult living in California before I was introduced to Rice Pilaf, wild rice, even Rice-A-Roni (the San Francisco treat) – and concluded that I didn’t hate rice. What I hated the way my mother cooked it.

The chicken—a stewing hen that was cheaper than a fryer—was cooked with onion, carrots and celery until the meat fell off the bones. Then we ate it with library paste rice and homemade bread.

Occasionally, my mother cooked something like brains which, I think, I was the only one in the family who balked at eating. Or, my father would go hunting once a year and bring home wild rabbits he had shot and killed. He would clean the rabbit at the kitchen sink—it made a deep impression on my mind. Then my mother soaked the rabbit in a sweet and sour marinade for three days before it was cooked. When it was cooking, the smell of sweet-sour marinade filled the house. I gagged at the prospect of eating that rabbit. Years passed before I could reconcile myself to the thought that it wasn’t the rabbit I loathed so much; it was the way my mother cooked it. (I still don’t eat rabbit).

Sometimes we had chili – cooked Cincinnati style and served on a bed of cooked spaghetti and topped off with oyster crackers, chopped onion and grated cheese. That was a family favorite then and it is now.

Another meal I loved was green (string) beans cooked with a cut of ham called cottage ham (that you can still find in Cincinnati) and red potatoes and carrots. I think we all loved this one pot meal and I think I improved on it by making it with fresh green beans – my mother’s were always canned. Alongside of it would be a helping of cottage cheese. Actually, I don’t think we had a lot of salads, growing up. Occasionally, mom would make a small green salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Or we might have some Cole slaw.

And I think all of us, loved sauerkraut dinners. It might be cooked with some pork or sausages and it was a must on New Year’s Eve, to eat at midnight in the hopes of bringing good luck. We’d have it with mashed potatoes and creamed peas. (I cringe to think of eating anything that heavy at midnight anymore!)

My brother Bill reminded me of mom’s hamburgers – a pound of ground beef mixed with a loaf of bread—which were pretty tasteless but she did mix them with a brown gravy after the hamburgers had been cooked, and that could be served over noodles. He thought her meatloaf was pretty good – I think it might have been the recipe on the box of Quaker Oats. He also reminded me of mom’s liver and onions, which we all liked, and her sour cottage cheese. It almost always tasted bad and I was an adult before I discovered I like cottage cheese.

Occasionally, my mother would make a pot of soup with marrow bones. The broth would contain some carrots and potatoes and perhaps a small piece of meat. We would eat the broth first, with some noodles, and then have the carrots and potatoes on our plate. My father and brothers would eat the marrow on crackers. Many years later, I discovered this method of making soup and serving it was well known many years ago. I imagine my mother learned this method of making soup from her mother. I think I came across this method of making soup in a presidential cookbook. Recently, a cousin gave me our maternal grandmother’s cookbook as a birthday present; I’ll have to check it for familiar sounding recipes.

We had a lot of one-pot meals growing up. Who could have imagined that years later this type of meal would be touted as healthier? I don’t think my mother ever stopped to consider what was healthier to feed five children. I think she was mostly concerned with getting the most for her money and keeping us filled up. She made two large loaves of bread twice a week – bread baked in a big roasting pan—and we always had bread on the table.

My older sister and brother were born before WW2 – my sister in 1936 and my brother in 1937. I was born in 1940, and two more brothers were born in 1943 and 1946—so we did indeed “grow up” in the 1950s. There was one cookbook in my mother’s kitchen, kept in a drawer. It was Ida Bailey Allen’s Service cookbook and that was also the cookbook I learned to cook from. I don’t remember my mother having a recipe box when I was a child, but she did acquire one years later that I now have.

So, that is my background for the 1950s. I would have turned ten years old late in 1950 and was beginning to be interested in cooking – mainly cookies and muffins. The first meal I ever cooked was the salmon patties, with macaroni and cheese, and some creamed peas. My parents were going out to a dinner and I made the meal for my then-three brothers. I think I was twelve. I didn’t have any cookbooks per se, but I had begun to send away for many free manufacturers pamphlets and booklets that I sent away for with penny postcards. By the time I married in 1958, I had a big box of these booklets. The Betty Crocker Picture cookbook was a wedding present.

Join me, won’t you, down memory lane? I will share with you some of my 50s cookbooks and perhaps dig into my bookshelves for cookbooks actually published in the 1950s as well.

What made me think along these lines was the acquisition of a Favorite Brand Name cookbook titled “FABULOUS ‘50s RECIPE COLLECTION” published in 2004. This cookbook reflects and provides recipes for many different 50s dishes starting with the most famous of all 1950s recipes, the Lipton California Dip recipe that changed cocktail parties forever after—and what could be simpler? A container of sour cream and a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix! To tell the truth, I don’t remember when I, personally, began mixing together sour cream and onion soup mix. Fabulous ‘50s provides as well recipes for spinach dip, California seafood dip, bacon dip and blue cheese dip, all starting out with sour cream and a packet of onion soup mix (and to tell the truth, you will generally find about half a dozen boxes of onion soup mix in my pantry shelves. I’m ready for anything!

Another onion soup mix recipe was Mini Cocktail Meatballs that began showing up at cocktail parties or as hors d’ oeuvres at dinner parties. Also making an appearance at those cocktail parties was Party Mix, made with various mixtures of cereal, pretzel sticks and Worcestershire sauce. I was never a big fan of this party mix but I know people who absolutely swear by it. Elsewhere I found a recipe for Holiday Shrimp Dip that is made with unflavored gelatin and canned condensed tomato soup—oddly enough, I didn’t “discover” this recipe until the 1970s when I met my friend Mary Jaynne and she shared her recipe with me. Another favorite that caught my eye was Original Ranch Snack Mix that is made with a combination of Crispix cereal, pretzels, cheddar cheese crackers and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix. I have been making a variation of this original 50s recipe for the past year – but it’s just small twist pretzels, peanut oil, Hidden Valley Ranch original dressing mix and a bit of cayenne pepper for a little kick. A girlfriend brought it to a party about two years ago and we have been making batch after batch ever since. For sure, everything old is new again!

Also in FABULOUS 50s is a recipe (much to my surprise) for Swanson Rosemary Chicken & Vegetables—I have been making something similar but perhaps with fewer ingredients—for about 5 or 6 years. It’s JUST a whole chicken, rosemary, lemon slices and lemon pepper—and sometimes I toss in some carrots and onions. The real success to this recipe is having fresh rosemary sprigs to stuff into the cavity, along with some lemons slices. I am fortunate to have a girlfriend who keeps me supplied regularly with lots of Rosemary. Aha, elsewhere in the cookbook I found a recipe for lemon rosemary roast chicken—the only difference between theirs and mine is fresh rosemary versus dried. (I’m sure you all know that almost all herbs are available in your supermarket nowadays, if you don’t have a girlfriend with a Rosemary bush). Also in the cookbook are recipes for such favorites as Steaks with Mushroom Onion Sauce, Pepper Steak, and Campbell’s Autumn Pork Chops made with cream of celery soup. Who hasn’t raised a family on pork chops with mushroom soup gravy? Other recipes include Rosemary Garlic Rub that you can make up when you have some free time and have it ready when you are ready to cook a steak or two. However, that being said, I have to concede that there is very little similarity between Fabulous 50s Recipe Collection and my mother’s cooking.

Let’s turn to a couple of Jane and Michael Stern’s cookbooks. “AMERICAN GOURMET/Classic Recipes, Deluxe Delights, Flamboyant Favorites, and Swank ‘Company’ Food from the ‘50s and ‘60s” was published in 1991 and “SQUARE MEALS/America’s Favorite Comfort Food Cookbook” was published in 2001. There are numerous cookbooks with “comfort” in the title; for me and many of my generation, “comfort” foods translate to many dishes of the 1950s.

From the introduction to AMERICAN GOURMET, we learn “In addition to a witty and astute look at the social history of the ’50s and ‘60s, American Gourmet presents 100 of the most memorable recipes of the time. Baked Alaska, Beef Wellington, Duck a l’Orange, Venerable Sukiyaki, Madison Avenue Chocolate Fondue, Aphrodisiacal Artichokes are not merely period pieces, and they are delicious, workable recipes and remain tasty causes for celebration…” (Sorry to say, none of those recipes were in my mother’s cookery repertoire—not even close) – However, what I – and my siblings and cousins WERE exposed to was a variety of German and Hungarian cuisine, thanks to our paternal grandmother who was German and married a Hungarian. We took for granted lovely paper thin pancakes we simply called “German” pancakes but were actually Hungarian Palacsinta that we spread with jam and rolled up to eat. (Palacsintas are similar to the French crepes). We had many kinds of fruit and cheese strudels and Dobos Torte and Hungarian Goulash. It was hardly the fare of most 1950s cooks but we simply took it for granted. Meanwhile, at home, “fruit” was usually a can of fruit cocktail or—we did have applesauce. This was because grandma had some sour apple trees and got all the women of the family involved in a yearly applesauce making binge. During WW2, when sugar was rationed, grandma canned the applesauce without sugar; for years afterwards, whenever we ate some applesauce, we’d sprinkle on a bit of sugar.

Occasionally, my mother would make oatmeal-raisin cookies and I thought I remembered them being made with bacon grease. I thought this highly unlikely until my Oklahoma penpal found a recipe for oatmeal-raisin cookies made with bacon grease. (I tried making them once with bacon grease – ew, ew. You cannot go home).

By the time I was ten years old, I was making cookies and muffins using my mother’s IDA BAILEY ALLEN Service Cookbook. I didn’t make any using bacon grease.

Jane and Michael Stern’s cookbook “SQUARE MEALS/AMERICA’S FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD COOKBOOK” has the distinction of a Foreword by M.F.K. Fisher in which she writes, “Almost any American of more than a few months citizenship knows what a square meal is, whether he teaches computer programming or picks crops. A few days ago a man said to me ‘All I really need right now is somewhere to sleep and three squares a day.’ And I knew what he meant: warmth and then food, decent food, something to stick to his ribs and keep him upright and strong…he meant a SQUARE MEAL which perforce meals tools and a place to use them, a knife and a spoon and perhaps even a plate, and a protected place of the enjoyment of all or almost all he could eat…

The Sterns are right; they have written with love and respect about the square meals of our country, the kind our grandmothers and the ladies of the Church Society and the cookies out in the cattle country have always managed to serve now and then, to keep us reassured as well as on our feet…”

Much is being discussed, in books and magazines as well as on TV about people not cooking SQUARE MEALS anymore, that we are eating all fast food on the run–Frozen things you stick in the microwave for a few minutes and even wrap in a paper napkin to eat on the way to work or where ever else you need to be. I have to disagree although I don’t have any statistics to back up what I say – I cooked dinner almost every night for the past fifty years – twenty five of those years when I was married and raising my family, another twenty five when I was sharing my life with my partner, Bob. I raised sons who expect some kind of square meal on the table when they get home from work (even when their wives are also employed) and I don’t think we were an isolated statistic. I know too many people who enjoy cooking and look forward to experimenting with new recipes. Throughout the 40s and the 50s, into the 60s and the 70s, my mother cooked dinner regularly. We children who grew up n the 40s and 50s learned to prepare dinner for our spouses and children—are we the last of the Mohicans? I hope not.

You will love Jane & Michael Stern’s SQUARE MEALS whether you cook meals regularly or not. They offer Dinner Classics such as Cream of tomato Soup and Diner Meatloaf (which I will have to try), Mashed Potatoes with Crater Gravy, choices of Sunday dinners which include roast pork with sinner stuffing, Mom’s Best Pot Roast and Roast Chicken with Peacemaker Herb, old 50s favorite desserts such as butterscotch pie and Boston Cream Pie which isn’t actually a pie, and oh, dozens of other favorites – many gone but not forgotten.

One of my favorite cookbooks for years has been Mimi Sheraton’s “FROM MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN/RECIPES & REMINISCENCES” which was published in 1979 so it’s safe to assume that many of her mother’s recipes were being cooked in the 1950s. The author says that, although this is not a kosher cookbook, many of the recipes are traditional Jewish dishes, others are entirely American.

Another more recently published cookbook (2003) that follows the theme of recipes too good to be forgotten is Lari Robling’s “ENDANGERED RECIPES”. Along with wonderful fifty-ish illustrations there are recipes for Parker House Rolls, Gingersnap Crumb Crust and Cream Pumpkin Pie, Smothered Pork Chops and Crockpot Apple Butter (which I have made several times), Boston Brown Bread (that my friend Mary’s mother used to make and would bake it in empty soup cans), Stuffed Peppers and Oven-fried Chicken and Genuine Boston Baked Beans.

I am also partial to Marion Cunningham’s “LOST RECIPES” in which she does not restrict herself to 50s recipes but to all of those treasured recipes she feels we are in danger of losing. In the Introduction Ms. Cunningham writes, “recently, I read the results of two different surveys on home cooking—one reporting that about 40 percent of the population cooks at home, the other that 30 percent does. She says no matt what the exact percentage is, one thing we know for sure is that fewer and fewer people are cooking, either because they don’t know how or because they just don’t want to bother. She goes on to say this is a greater loss than we realize because, among various reasons, home cooking is a catalyst that brings people together. “We are losing,” she writes, “the daily ritual of sitting down around the table (without the intrusion of television) of having the opportunity to interact, to share our experiences and concerns, to listen to others…”

I take exception to this remark—I suppose it puts me and my family in the remaining 60 or 70 percent, depending on which statistic you choose to believe, because I have cooked dinner virtually every day for more than fifty years—first 25 years with a husband and four growing sons, and another 26 years with a life partner who became “grandpa” to my grandchildren. I have at least one daughter in law who cooks virtually every night and another daughter in law who shares cooking dinner with her husband, the son who enjoys cooking and has become very adept at it. I believe my sons expect a daily dinner because that’s what they grew up with; I cooked a daily dinner because it’s what I grew up with. And I suspect that my grandchildren will become the same way.

“Lost Recipes” is packed with recipes in danger of being forgotten, such treasures as Truman’s Ozark Pudding and Blue Ribbon Gingerbread. There is a recipe for Beet Marmalade and Red Pepper Jelly but what I love most about this particular cookbook is the design and illustrations, a step out of the past that makes for interesting reading for those who read cookbooks like novels—you know who you are. “Lost Recipes” was published in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf. If the name Marion Cunningham sounds familiar, it should. She wrote the latest Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

There is a cookbook titled SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER PRUDENCE PENNY COOKBOOK, edited and revised by Ruth Berotzheimer who was at that time director of the Culinary Arts Institute. This cookbook was published in 1955—it’s a thick well indexed and enormously detailed cookbook and – since it was published smack in the middle of the 1950s – I feel it only fair to mention some of the recipes. This cookbook has literally hundreds of recipes so I will have to be a little selective—there are poultry recipes for Roast Chicken, Maryland Style, as well as recipes for fried, smothered, simmered, steamed and pressed chicken. You can choose from recipes for making chicken and dumplings. Fricassee of Chicken, Chicken Pie, Curry of Chicken, Savory chicken, scalloped or creamed chicken. If turkey was on your menu, there are directions for roasting braising, broiling or even French frying the bird. There are also recipes for preparing goose, duck, as well as pheasant, partridge, quail and grouse..not to mention recipes for squab, pigeon, roast leg of venison and roast hare or rabbit. (which we never had. My mother ONLY made Hasenpfeffer with the rabbit my father brought home from his hunting trip.

I like the chapter dedicated to sauces –Béchamel, Poulette, drawn butter sauce, caper sauce (which I happen to like) as well as Hollandaise, Béarnaise and imitation caper sauce (ew, ew, it’s made with chopped pickles). Actually, I probably shouldn’t mention this, but Prudent Penny’s cookbook reminds me somewhat of Maida Given’s cookbook. They’re the kind of cookbooks every home should have had (but my parents’ home didn’t). The only cookbooks I became familiar with, in the 1950s, were the recipe booklets advertised on the back of items such as baking powder or Hershey’s cocoa – you could send for them with a penny postcard and I acquired a collection of those).

Prudence Penny offered a wealth of recipes for cakes, cookies, frostings, cake fillings, all sorts of puddings, ice creams and sauces for desserts. Even today, novice cooks would find this cookbook worthy of attention.

Hopefully, if you haven’t done much cooking for a while, this may inspire you. And if you are like me and already doing a fair amount of cooking, here are some cookbook titles to think about. I’ll try to provide you with some fifties recipes in my next post—but feel free to write if there is a favorite dish in particular that you would like to see in print.


Sandra Lee Smith