Monthly Archives: January 2013


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME?  A lot when you are coming up with the title for a community cookbook!   I love a clever name, something that makes the title stand out and makes you want to learn more about it.  This is exactly what I thought when I saw

PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE by the Junior League of DeKalb County, Georgia  – or

COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist  Women –    or –

SUGAR SNIPS & ASPARAGUS TIPS, by the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.

Intriguing titles, aren’t they? Do you want to learn more? I hope so!

First in this trilogy of community cookbooks is PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE subtitled Dining in Atlanta Style, compiled by the Junior League of DeKalb County, in Georgia, and first published in 1979. By the time the sixth edition was published in 1991, over a hundred thousand copies of Puttin’ On the Peach Tree were sold.

In the Introduction, the Junior Leaguers write, “Our forebearers  brought to this  country a knowledge of sensible, life sustaining food. They combined that knowledge with the bounty from the Georgia soil and called it “Southern Cooking”.

The native Indians added appreciation of the gifts of woods and waters.

Country folks taught us that good food shared with good friends is reason enough for a celebration.

Shy mountain women proved to us that food speaks clearly of love when the tongue cannot.

City sophisticates helped us find creative expression in cooking for the sheer fun of it… Elsewhere, they write,

“Wherever you cook. There’s a phrase for it:
In the city, it’s putting on the ritz,

In the country, it’s puttin’ on the dog.

In some places in between, it’s puttin’ on your best bib and tucker

and in Atlanta, it’s PUTTIN’ ON THE PEACHTREE!

It speaks of entertaining people you care about and doing it well.  It’s Dining In, Atlanta Style”

The Junior Leaguers who compiled this oh-so-southern- cookbook did a fine job; they must have been enormously gratified that this cookbook—their project—has done so well—and no wonder!

Starting with Appetizers and Beverages, I found recipes I have not seen elsewhere – recipes such as Antipasto Spread and Artichoke Spread, Homestyle “Boursin” and Beer Cheese Dip, Hot Cheese Puffs and Crab Meat Hot Dip, as well as unusual recipes such as Fried Gyoza (Pot Stickers), which reflects on how much this country has broadened in its culinary endeavors, with recipes from other countries wending their way into community cookbooks!

In the chapter for SOUPS you will find a Puree of Asparagus Soup (which I look forward to trying), as well as a Cauliflower Ham chowder, Clam Bisque, and a New England Style Clam Chowder that I most definitely will make.  There is an unusual recipe for Chicken Soup with Meatballs that really sounds interesting and a Hangover Soup that also sounds like fun (hangover or no) and a Vegetable Soup made with Ground Beef…these and other recipes are sure to whet  your appetite.

In addition to many southern favorites, you can broaden your horizons with an inclusion of Cold Hungarian Tomato Soup, Stiriai Meteit (noodle pudding), Bogracs Guiyas (Kettle Goulash) and Erdelyi Zsivanpecsenye which translates to Bandit’s Meat—plus a recipe for Pork Paprikash which perhaps needs no translation. I was delighted to also find a recipe for Ron Cohn’s Palacsinta, a kind of crepe that I have written about before on this blog. My siblings and cousins and I grew up on Palacsinta, which we referred to ignominiously as “German Pancakes” as we spread them with jam and rolled up, to eat on our way back to school after having lunch at Grandma’s. has copies of this cookbook starting at one cent and going up to 3.63 for pre-owned copies. New copies are available starting at 6.50. has hard-bound pre-owned copies for 99c!  I think the 1979 edition may have originally been published in a hard bound copy.  **

Next, COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist Women is a thick spiral bound cookbook first published in April, 1993, with additional copies being published a few months later, in August, 1993 and a third printing taking place in July, 1994.

In the Introduction, we are asked “Who are these women that took on such a challenging task? The names and faces have changed throughout the years, but they are the ones who have helped     pay or paid the preacher’s salary, light bills, painting bills, and maintenance and repair bills: replaced furniture, cleaned the church, provided altar flowers, visited the sick and poor, provided food trays, clothed the needy, supported the Methodist Orphanage, and countless other things!

How did they accomplish so many things? Traditionally, these women have held a variety of fund raisers, such as turkey dinners, bazaars, flea markets, silent auctions, homes tours and others to help support the church, community, individuals, missions, and outreach ministries. Nothing changes with the publication of this cookbook – their work continues!

From Collard Greens, Watermelons and “Miss” Charlotte’s Pie we present to you a collection of recipes from parishioners, friends, former members, family members and other generations of the Swansboro United Methodist Church.

Each tested recipe has been carefully edited in an effort to clarify both ingredients and instructions…”  The church members also shared with us recipes from three earlier cookbooks published by the United Methodist Church in 1968, 1977, and 1985…”

I haven’t taken the time to count all the recipes in “Collard Greens, et al” but at a guess, I’d say there must be over four hundred.

Look for Lemon Cake Pudding, as this is something I was making years ago and can vouch for.  Mexican Lasagna is another. If you have the patience for it, making Watermelon Cookies is a good project to do with children (or in my case, grandchildren) – they are sure to be a hit at any party. Another easy one with only four ingredients is Almond or Pecan Roca. “Miss” Charlotte’s Strawberry Glaze Pie is certainly a wonderful dessert to surprise dinner guests with. Speaking of “Miss” Charlotte, there is a fascinating biography on her to be found on page 3. “Miss” Charlotte, who was in the first graduating class at Duke University in 1925 and married Alton Fields in 1933.

“Miss Charlotte’s” life reads like something Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings or Lee Smith might have created as a character in one of their books. I believe I found the grave sites for both “Miss” Charlotte and her husband, Alton, by doing a Google search. If my calculation is correct, they were married for 65 years and she lived 9 years after him.

What delights and charms me most about COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE is the dedication to the people of Swansboro United Methodist Women while composing a cookbook that is chock-full of wonderful recipes and unexpected newsy tidbits such as the history of newspapers in the area.

COLLARD GREENS, WATERMELONS AND “MISS” CHARLOTTE’S PIE by the Swansboro United Methodist Women is available on starting a $2.95 for a hard bound copy. It is also available on starting at $2.67 for a pre owned copy.

*I want to point out that sometimes a private vendor has a new copy of a book priced at the most scandalous ridiculous prices. Whenever I see prices such as these, I totally ignore them. I can’t imagine anyone being interested in spending hundreds of dollars on a single book when a perfectly good pre-owned copy, often in like-new condition, can be had for far less.  Just letting you know – if I don’t post a NEW price on a book, it’s because the new prices are ridiculous.

The third cookbook I want to share with you today is “SUGAR SNIPS & ASPARAGUS TIPS” compiled by the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago and published in 1991. The organization alone is enough to pique anyone’s interest, including mine and I was not disappointed. In 1911, the Chicago Milk Commission joined with the Children’s Hospital Society to combat the city’s spiraling infant mortality rate. The new organization was named the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago and its mission was to provide well baby care and to instruct mothers how to feed and care for their infants…today the Infant Welfare Society operates pediatric, dental and gynecological clinics and a Home Based Visiting Program…in Chicago. The services continue to expand every year as does the demand for high quality preventive and affordable health care.

I can’t help but wonder how many young lives might have been saved if, back in 1911, programs like the Woman’s Auxiliary Infant Welfare Society of Chicago had been available in hundreds of other cities throughout the U.S.A.  One of the claims of the Infant Welfare Society is that no one is denied care because of inability to pay.  The Woman’s Auxiliary, composed of 34 centers and a membership of more than 1200 volunteers, also offers a Teen Clinic to meet the increasing needs of adolescent boys and girls for medical care, health information and psychological counseling. Other services include laboratory screening and testing, pediatric, cardiology, vision and hearing screen, nutrition counseling and a learning-through-play program.

The photography for Sugar Snips & Asparagus Tips was provided by Laurie Rubin Photography and is spectacular.

The many recipes in Appetizers range from cold appetizers, spreads and dips to hot appetizers, dips and spreads and include such tantalizing dishes such as Asparagus Canapés, Chutney Party Pinwheels, Sesame Chicken Wings,  and Phyllo Spinach Diamonds, a recipe I used to make and thought would be great to serve again at a party. These and other appetizer recipes will whet your appetite and provide inspiration for your next dinner party or family get-together.

There are soups and salads which include a recipe for Rich Cream of Asparagus Soup and Old Fashioned Oxtail Soup, both recipes I plan to try, but you may also be interested in the Jamaican Pumpkin soup, or Fabulous French Onion Soup. Under Salads there is a recipe for Orange Asparagus Soup, and A B C Salad (Avocado, Bacon & Chicken Salad) and others with ingredients you may be aware of, such as Jicama, but don’t know how to use; Try Jicama, Mango and Papaya with Citrus Dressing. Perhaps one of the most enticing things about a community cookbook is the discovery of foods we might not know about, with recipes that give you an idea of how it can be used.  I have always thought Jicama tasted like a cross between a potato and an apple.  I like the salad dressings of Mock Caesar Dressing, Onion Chutney Dressing and Hazelnut Vinaigrette, just to name a few.

Under the chapter titled Eggs & Pasta, be sure to check out Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Sweet Red Pepper or consider the Spinach and Ricotta Tart (I love anything made with spinach or asparagus!) There is also a recipe for Marbleized Eggs that you might want to try – it only requires two ingredients!  And a cookbook with “Asparagus” in the title wouldn’t be complete without Asparagus Quiche, would it?

These and many, many more recipes from the Woman’s Auxiliary, Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, are just waiting for you to discover them. has the book priced at $12.94 for a new copy, or 35 cents for a pre-owned copy.  On, I discovered numerous pre owned copies for 99c. Take your pick!

What’s in a name? Everything, if you are putting together a fund-raiser cookbook.

Happy Cooking and even happier cookbook collecting!

Sandra Lee Smith





In the past, I have attempted to review several cookbooks in one fell swoop, with the idea that perhaps I can pass along information on some exceptional community cookbooks. There are, unquestionably, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of new cookbooks being published every year; no one can possibly keep up with all of them. What I have been doing in the past few months is putting together some short stacks of cookbooks I feel are too good to get lost in the shuffle. (and no one knows better than I how easily cookbooks can get lost in the shuffle!)

So, with this thought in mind, let me share some of my favorite cookbooks with you and maybe something in this presentation will kindle a spark with other like-minded cookbook collectors (rest assured; if you have more than a few dozen cookbooks, you are a collector). I remember when I had only 300 cookbooks and thought I was hopelessly addicted to cookbooks. That was a long time ago and now I have no idea how many cookbooks are in my collection.

The first book I want to write about is not a community cookbook per se, but it is a nicely spiral bound cookbook by a woman named Linda Burgett. The title of the book is MILD TO WILD Mexican Cookbook/ More than 400 Recipes to delight your imagination and tickle your taste buds. Linda comes by writing a cookbook honestly; her parents, Sharon McFall and father Gene McFall are the authors of BUSY WOMEN’S COOKBOOK, COOKING WITH WILL ROGERS, GET ME OUT OF THE KITCHEN and JUST AROUND THE CURVE COOKBOOK.

Linda lives in New Mexico (a State more and more responsible for producing cookbook authors) with her husband and son. Linda enjoys entertaining and collecting recipes at the many functions she attends. Her husband’s love of spicy Mexican food and her son’s desire for milder versions inspired her to write MILD TO WILD MEXICAN COOKBOOK.

This cookbook kicks off with a Wild Sauce and Kickin’ Ketchup plus a variety of salsa recipes. There are a number of easy to prepare recipes ranging from Green With Envy Salsa to Black Bean Salsa, Aloha Salsa and one of my favorites, Pico de Gallo Salsa, a Restaurant Style Salsa and many hot salsa recipes. There are many other  salsas and dips from which to choose, including a Layered Dip similar to one that has made its way into many American homes since (I believe) the first one I ever saw in print was in a woman’s magazine around 1980—but there is an Avocado Layered Dip that I think would be a good change of pace.

But Mexican food is a great deal more than salsas and dips—I’ve been marking with post-its recipes for chicken enchiladas and chicken fajitas, Spanish Spinach Enchiladas  and easy Cheese Enchiladas. There are over 400 recipes in MILD TO WILD, from tamales to burritos and dozens of mouth-watering recipes in between.

I found MILD TO WILD on, listed at $18.80 for a new copy or starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy. It is on for 99c for pre-owned copies. If you like Mexican food, you will love MILD TO WILD Mexican Cookbook **

For sheer attractiveness I’d have to give high marks to PUTTING ON THE GRITS presented by the Junior League of Columbia, South Carolina. The art-deco-ish design of the cover and throughout the book is sure to charm anyone who is partial to the art deco look (Personally, I love it. Whenever I am in Cincinnati, I love visiting the old train depot (now housing several museums) with its 1930s art deco designs). First published in 1985, Putting On the Grits has gone through five printings by 1993 (and perhaps more since then).

From Appetizers ranging from Spinach Cheese Squares to Spicy Chicken Tidbits, from the incredibly easy to prepare Hot Bacon Bits, to Marinated Shrimp, these and many other recipes will whet your appetite. There are a wide variety of soups, salads, breads, vegetables and side dishes from which to ooh and ahh and dash off to the kitchen to try.

I am admittedly partial to southern recipes so a chapter titled Southern Classics certainly caught my eye. Whether it’s Buttermilk Biscuits or Hot Pepper Jelly (to put on the hot buttermilk biscuits!), Shrimp Pie or Crab Cakes, Southern  Baked Grits or Sausage and grits Casserole, Fried Green Tomatoes or Blackberry Jam Cake—you will surely find a southern favorite to add to your culinary repertoire.

Putting On the Grits may be out of print but copies are still available. I couldn’t find a listing on but has over a dozen copies starting at $10.92 and some new copies priced at $29.98. ***

One of my favorite cookbooks to come from the Finger Lakes Region is titled THRU THE GRAPEVINE, and was compiled by the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning, Inc. and was published in 1991.

This is a big thick cookbook which had gone through seven printings as of  February 1994 including a Southern Living Hall of Fame Edition).   Over a thousand recipes were submitted by members of the Junior League of Greater Elmira-Corning. Inc. The 635 recipes contained in this book were tested and retested for quality, selected and edited for clarity by the Junior League members. Included with the many specially chosen recipes there are illustrations of famous sites such as Bluff Point and Glen Iris Inn, Taughannock Falls and Watkins Glen Gorge—Watkins Glen Gorge!!  I have been keen to return to upstate New York ever since my family visited it when I was 15 years old, and my brother was stationed at an air force base (no longer in existence) in the finger lakes region.

I can’t begin to do this cookbook justice; the sheer volume of recipes is overwhelming. There is something for everyone and you will spend weeks, if not months, working your way through the more than six hundred recipes. has copies priced at $4.89 and up, while  has pre owned copies starting at $5.00.

On this happy note, I will bring this post to a close for tonight. I hope one of these    cookbooks piques your interest. All three are spectacular.

Happy Cooking & happier cookbook collecting!









While I can’t copy all the explanations for the following 10 super foods, I can provide you with an email address to order a copy of the list.

  6. CRISPBREADS (i.e., such as Ry-Krisp)


To request a copy of this list, write to




We’re more than halfway into January and a couple more lists have come to my attention.  Well, one of them must have come in the mail encouraging me to renew my subscription to Rachel Ray’s Everyday magazine. Or maybe it fell out of one of her magazines—I don’t always remember how I acquire bits and pieces of stuff – like someone else’s list. This one was titled 12 Bites of Every Day Food Wisdom from Rachel.

  • Recipes: First Things First – Rachel instructs us to always read each menu or recipe through before you begin. It’s the best way to check out your ingredient list and get familiar with the steps. Good tip. I find myself checking the list of ingredients first, then reading through the recipe and then, often as not, I go back and re-read some vital piece of information, like yesterday when I was making pistachio dried cranberry ice box cookies for my daughter in law. I was well into the recipe when I asked myself “wait!  Where does the egg fit into this?”  Turns out the egg is just an ingredient that gets brushed onto the dough before it goes into the oven.
  • Shortcuts: sometimes Okay. Rachel tells us there are times when store bought items simply make sense. For example, she often suggests pre-shredded cheese and pre-cut veggies as options in her recipes. One of my favorite short cut ingredients is pre-made salsa, green or red, that comes in many sizes and varieties. I poured some into my chicken tortilla soup a few days ago to give it the kick that it needed.
  • Substitutions: Why Not? Rachel says personally she rarely uses them but it’s up to you. Substitute freely, she says, as you like or need. If you prefer reduced fat cheese and dairy products, she warns, be aware that the consistency of spreads, dips or sauces may be slightly thinner. I just want to add—my youngest son had to give up dairy for health reasons; I began buying soy-based shredded cheddar cheese for him; we tried different varieties until he found one the most palatable. Personally, I despise salt substitutes and would rather use less and stick to the real thing—well, we did graduate to sea salt.
  • Smell and Taste as You Go—Rachel says learning about food and flavor is part of developing as a cook. Bu tasting and sniffing your way through different types of recipes, your palate will play matchmaker and you’ll learn how to associate flavors and textures that complement one another. I thought this tip was just about as basic as anything you could learn at your mother’s elbow or in a high school cooking class—and I taste everything as I go. I keep a pan of hot soapy water in the sink to drop the spoons into so there’s no double dipping, but you know what? It amazes me how often a chef on the Food Network program CHOPPED (which I love) hasn’t TASTED his or her recipe as they went along. The judges often ask “Did you taste this?” knowing full well which contestants have or haven’t seasoned a dish. Those judges don’t miss much!
  • One-Fell-Swoop Washing.   After a trip to the market, says Rachel, unpack, rinse and re-pack greens—like parsley—in plastic bags with damp paper towels before storing in the fridge. It cuts prep time all week. And I want to add, I repack and freeze almost all meats that I buy in quantity. My daughter in law’s tip is to buy large quantities of boneless chicken breasts when on sale and then she repacks and freezes them in one quart size freezer bags. She always has the amount she needs on hand, and the one quart bags take less time to defrost.
  • SWEETENING SAUCE: To sweeten tomato sauce, says Rachel, don’t add sugar; add half a mince onion to the garlic beforehand. Let it soften and sweeten over medium low heat for 10 minutes, then add to your tomato products. I confess, this is a new one for me.  I can’t wait to try it.
  • PACKAGES BROTHS: Broths and stocks have come a long way in the last few years, says Rachel; not only with taste and consistency, but in terms of packaging. They now come in re-sealable containers found in the soup aisle. The proper containers make storage of remaining product super easy. Stock up. I have to agree with this but want to add that I search for any of these products to be  on sale and then stock up.
  • GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. Rachel keeps a big convenient earthenware garbage bowl on the counter for everything from peelings to pits to plastic wrap as she is cooking. It saves steps and time by eliminating unsanitary and repetitive trips to the trash can across the kitchen and keeps junk out of the sink drain and out of your way. I want to add to that—before we moved to the high desert where it’s not exactly safe to have a compost in a coyote might visit your back yard—Bob had a large compost area in Arleta that was walled in. All the grass clippings and leaves went into the compost along with most compostable-items such as carrot and potato peelings. He had a steady supply of rich compost soil for planting.
  • E-Z SLICING-For easy slicing of raw meat, pop it  into the freezer for 10 to 15   minutes before starting to prepare the meat. This firms it up and you’ll find that it will be easier to control the thickness of slices. (all very true—sls)
  • CRUNCHY CAPERS. Roasting gives capers a new flavor. they become a little nutty and earthy and they pop when you bite down! I’d like to add to this that my favorite fish recipe is a white fish sautéed in lemon juice and sprinkled with lemon pepper—then sprinkled with capers.
  • Oil & Vinegar.  When dressing an oil and vinegar always put the acid (vinegar) on first before the EVOO. If you add the oil first, the oil keeps the acid from getting to the greens, and your salad isn’t really “dressed”.  My comment about this one? I never add any kind of salad dressing to salads; I put them on the table for everyone to add their own favorite salad dressing. The leftover greens stay fresh this way.

Happy cooking! Sandy


HEIRLOOM COOKING WITH THE BRASS SISTERS by Marilynn Brass & Sheila Brass, with photographs by Andy Ryan, is yet another reminder of the times and recipes we loved so much.

Inside the dust jacket, we read “Every family has its own tradition or heirloom recipes – cherished dishes that make highly anticipated appearances and special occasions or favorite meals that serve as reliable weekday suppers. Passed down through generations, these recipes make up the aromas and the flavors of our childhoods, conjuring memories that sustain us through the course of our adult lives.

Authors of Heirloom Baking and James Beard Award finalists Marilynn and Sheila Brass launched a whole new cookbook category with their “heirloom” baking recipes. Now they have turned their culinary skills to the rest of the menu, presenting delicious, savory, and timeless heirloom dishes collected over decades and updated for the modern kitchen. We learn that Marilynn and Sheila Brass have spent a lifetime collecting handwritten “manuscript cookbooks” and “living recipes.” I wonder how many others there are of us “out there” who have done the very same thing for decades?

Heirloom Cooking collects and skillfully updates 135 of the very best of these, which together represent nearly 100 years of the best-loved and most delicious dishes from all over North America. The oldest recipes date back to the late 1800s, and every decade and a wide variety of ethnicities are captured here.

The book is divided into sections including Starters; Salads; Vegetables; Breads; Main Dishes including Lamb, Beef, Veal, Pork, Fish, Chicken, and Turkey; Vegetarian; and—of course—Dessert. As they did in Heirloom Baking, the Brass sisters include the wonderful stories behind the recipes, and once again, lush photography is provided by Andy Ryan.

The search for “retro” or old family favorite recipes is certainly not a new quest – I have written about it before on this blog. “Forgotten Recipes & Vinegar Pie” was just one example of our never-ending quests to make everything old new again.  “Lost Recipes” by Marion Cunningham is another. There are probably dozens of similarly-themed  cookbooks but the twist is how cookbook authors can present old favorites in a new light.

Be forewarned! Once you start reading HEIRLOOM COOKING, and view the tantalizing, mouth-watering prepared dishes—you may not surface from the kitchen for weeks to come. There are many delightful recipes from which to choose—I immediately spied Red Velvet Cake, under Sweet Finales, and was reminded of my quest—back in the 1990s, I think, to find the original recipe for Red Velvet Cake (now available in a cake mix!!) and how my ever-faithful friend and researcher, Pat Stuart, helped me find the recipe and provided her family’s history of this particular cake.

The introduction to Heirloom Cooking is festooned with copies of old recipe booklets—some you may have, some perhaps not as I don’t recognize any of the booklets featured on pages 30-31.

Where shall we begin reading and cooking today?  Auntie Dot’s Chopped Liver? (My mother’s recipe was called Black Butter), or Arline’s Farm House Rye Bread? (They had me at Rye bread – I’ve been wanting to find a good recipe for making my own and even have the rye flour bought!  My siblings and I almost always order rye bread toast when eating in a restaurant. We are all so fond of it). Or maybe you will want to try a recipe for Bagels from Chicago, a recipe from the 1940s. Or a recipe for Corned Beef Hash, from the 1920s?  Heirloom Cooking has it all. As for me, I just found an 1890s recipe for Split Pea Soup and think I have all the ingredients in my pantry. You will find yourself torn between making one recipe or another – may I suggest, read the cookbook first and mark the recipes you want to try with little post-it notes, to get you started.

Heirloom Cooking was published in 2008 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers and distributed by Workman Publishing Company. Best price from is $9.73 for a pre-owned copy of Heirloom Cooking. Amazon has new copies for about $20. has pre-owned copies for $6.46 and brand-new copies for $16.00. This is a big thick heavy book so if you purchase a pre-owned copy for under $7.00 and pay $3.99 shipping, you will still be coming out ahead. However, once you see this cookbook, you may want to invest in a new copy. The original publishing price is $29.95.

Happy Cooking! Happier cookbook collecting!




Perhaps, to some people, they weren’t “arts” at all. To the people who lived and worked in those decades where “conveniences” were far and few in between, things like growing your own herbs or making your own soap simply fell into the vast cauldron of work that had to be done.

About a decade ago, Bob and I embarked on a quest to learn how to do some of those mostly forgotten tasks, such as making our own soap and having our own herb garden.  As you may know, we had been doing a lot of canning for more than ten years—growing and canning (or freezing) our own tomatoes, beans, corn, peaches and other fruits and vegetables. We had a small grape arbor in Arleta, which yielded plenty of grapes from which to make unsweetened grape juice or grape jelly. We also had peach, orange, tangerine, lemon, fig, and olive trees.  Several times we’ve made our own sauerkraut. Bob backed the car into my huge crock one day, so I sauerkraut making was put on a back burner until we could acquire another one—and the replacement crock is far  more superior than the old one had been. If anyone is seriously interested in making your own sauerkraut and obtaining a worthwhile crock, write to me and I will dig out the booklet about the crock. It was rather expensive – however, shipping was free so that was a plus.

My sister’s mother-in-law had given me that first crock, which I deeply regretted  losing. Mostly, I make a lot of jellies and jams, coming up with some of my own original combinations (like Hunka Hunka berry jam and Grammy’s Christmas Jammy that we give to friends and relatives at Christmas). I also make a lot of chutneys, relishes, conserves, fruit butters—and apple sauce.  We had a young apple tree that began producing tart green apples, like a Granny Smith. It was hard to leave that tree behind when we moved to the Antelope Valley, but a few years ago, we bought a new apple tree and last year it began to produce a nice green tart apple, also similar to granny smiths.

More recently, I began experimenting with concocting my own herb/spice mixtures from things like parsley, carrot leaves, celery leaves, tomatoes, chives, cilantro, garlic, and chili peppers, dehydrating and then crushing the mixture so that I could use it as a seasoning substitute for salt. (It started when I began wondering just how much of a vegetable could be dehydrated. I bought carrots with the fern-like green tops still attached to them, and dried them in my dehydrator. It worked!

Bob made grape wine a time or two and one of our friends made a special label for us. (I confess, I was not really very impressed with the home brew. I’d rather stick to White Zinfandel—but Bob drank it.

My Grandpa Schmidt had a small grape arbor and made his own wine. I couldn’t be in our little arbor, picking grapes, without thinking about my grandfather, tending his grape vines. (My brother tells the story about how, after grandpa died, my father, uncle and aunt found some very old bottles of grandpa’s wine in his wine cellar and proceeded to get blitzed on it).  Even though my grandfather passed away when I was only eight years old, when I am in our grape arbor, I feel connected to him.  **

A lot of people would say “why bother?”  Why go to all of that work when you can just go to the local supermarket and buy a jar of applesauce, or jam, or jelly or a bottle of grape juice?  Why, indeed?  As I sit here at the computer, I am asking myself that very question. Why did we do it? Why am I continuing to make jams and jellies, apple sauce and apple butter?

I think part of the answer to this question has to do with soap making. Yes, soap. But not your ordinary scented body-and-bath soap. The soap I am talking about is a brownish- colored heavy duty soap, sort of like bars of Fels Naptha or LAVA. As far back as I can remember, my mother made this lye-based soap once a year. It was used for many different things—scrubbing floors or our bare feet, after we’d been running barefoot all day during the summertime. During World War II and long after, my mother would shave up bits of this soap to do the wash. She never purchased store-bought laundry detergent.  We called it “work soap” and I always thought that just meant it could be used to do a lot of different jobs.

However, a few years ago, I made a curious discovery; years ago, in Cincinnati, there was a heavy-duty soap similar to this called Werk’s Tag Soap.  As a matter of fact, there is even a Werk Road in Cincinnati, where my high school was located. Our “work” soap was actually named after the Werk soap which, I believe, was named after the family that manufactured it.

My mother continued making her work soap even long after she and my father retired at a mobile home park in Largo, Florida. She’d save all bits of grease – bacon grease, chicken fat – until she had enough to make a batch of soap.  When my mother passed away in September, 2000, her “recipe” for making soap went with her. I couldn’t find directions written down anywhere in her recipe box. No one else in the family seems to know exactly how it was made.   For a time, I thought perhaps she learned how to make soap from her mother, my Grandma Beckman – but recently, one of my cousins set me straight. “Grandma Schmidt made that soap, too” he recalled.

I saved cans of grease in the freezer until I thought I had enough, then one day perhaps five or six winters ago, we followed the directions for making lye soap that I had found in a cookbook. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until it separated – one of the common problems with soap-making (generally caused by stirring it too fast—and the faster we stirred, the more it separated) – but even so, we finally poured the finished product into shallow wax-lined box lids (I am not sure what my mother used for molds), and after it had “set”, we cut it into bars. I left it on the front porch for about two weeks to ‘age’.  As a final test, I sent a couple of bars to my brother, Jim—who declared it a close clone to mom’s “work” soap.

Why did I feel obligated to make a batch of this soap?  Because, if I didn’t, the art of making “work soap” would have died with my mother. Since then, I discovered (thanks to the Internet) that soap making is far from really being a “lost art”—but it’s comforting to me, and my siblings, to hold a bar of this soap in our hands, and recall how our mother made it, once a year—and how we used it for everything, from scrubbing floors to washing the dog.  And, I think I will attempt to make another batch but will follow some of the directions that I found on the Internet, next time.

Incidentally, Bob thought it was the best thing in the world for washing really grubby hands after you’d been working under the car or out in the garden.

Then I began experimenting with making my own ‘from scratch’ salad dressings.  I’ve made Ranch and Blue Cheese dressings by the quart, for years – but was interested in a red wine vinaigrette that I could season with my dried-veggie-concoction.  It took several batches to get the vinaigrette just the way I like it—but more importantly, it tastes so much better than commercial dressings.  I feel the same way about Ranch dressing. What you buy in a bottle doesn’t begin to compare with making it with the powdered Hidden Valley Ranch dressing made with buttermilk. Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit by using the powdered mix and I “doctor” the whole thing a bit to suit us.

One day my sister called, saying she was making tacos and didn’t have any taco seasoning mix. Hold on, I told her – I think I have the directions for making that from scratch. I did and I emailed the recipe to her. She says she makes ‘her own’ mix all of the time now.

My grandmother made all of her own noodles—she’d have them drying on the backs of all her wooden kitchen chairs (I haven’t gotten into noodle making just yet – and think I just might have to invest in a pasta machine for this)—but we often make beef jerky, from London Broil when it’s on sale. (A dehydrator is a handy thing to have, and we own two of them—Bob found the second one at a yard sale and bought it for a dollar).

Some of you are undoubtedly too young to remember this, but in the 70s, everyone began making sourdough starter to make their own sourdough bread. We also had yogurt makers to make homemade yogurt. I still have a sourdough starter in my refrigerator.

I discovered a book called “Lost Arts” by Lynn Alley. It’s a guide to making vinegar, curing olives, crafting fresh goat cheese, making simple mustards, baking bread and growing herbs. We had several olive trees in our home in Arleta, and attempted to cure our own olives one year.

As for baking bread – well, I’ve been baking bread most of my adult life and I’ve written about it a few times. When I was a child, my mother made her own bread, two large loaves, twice weekly. She baked the bread in large turkey roaster pans and we took homemade bread so completely for granted that having a sandwich made with Wonder Bread was something of a novelty. When my sons were small, I began experimenting with making various kinds of bread – my favorite being pumpernickel –and I often put the dough, in a large Tupperware container, inside the car to “rise”.

Lynn Alley’s chapter on bread making is a great deal more creative than even I  want to be – she includes information on growing your own grain, milling grains at home, and creating your own leavening (I’ve done the leavening – that’s easy enough and there are a lot of recipes for making sour dough starters) – but if you are just starting out and don’t have a bread machine, try your hand at one of the many recipes for making quick breads – pumpkin, zucchini, banana nut. They’re easy to make and a freshly baked loaf of banana nut bread is so rewarding.  Small loaves of homemade fruit breads accompanied by a small jar of homemade jelly make a nice gift, too. When I was in Ohio one year, I made fresh banana nut bread for my nephew and his son – they didn’t even wait for it to cool off and polished off the entire loaf in a few minutes. You’d have thought I’d given them the crown jewels.  (My nephew, Russ, was stationed in San Diego when he was in the navy, in the early 1980s. Whenever he had a free weekend, he got on a Greyhound Bus and came to visit us in the San Fernando Valley. I often made banana nut bread for him to take back with him to the ship, to share with his friends. He has the fondest memories of those loaves of bread!)

I’m going to share one more of my “lost arts” with you and I am sure you’ll think I’m one brick short of a full load when I tell you this. I asked Bob to put up a clothes line for me and it was one of the things he accomplished before he became too sick to do anything but sleep.  (The hardest part of this project was finding some of the plastic-coated clothes line—most stores no longer carry clothesline!  But we persisted and did eventually find clothes line, and at the local hardware store, bought a bag of spring-type clothes pins (first we bought a package of peg-type clothes pins, the kind being used mostly, these days, for craft projects. As a matter of fact, that package came from a craft store). But I discovered that the peg-type clothes pins were hard to work with. Maybe they really aren’t made to hang clothes with, anymore!  Plastic spring-type clothes pins have a tendency to break apart easily. Initially, I wanted a clothes line to hang things of mine that shouldn’t go into the dryer – and my little area rugs that have rubber backings. I also wanted to be able to hang sheets and pillowcases on the line.  But the wonderful smell of air-dried laundry soon converted me – I began hanging most of the laundry out on the line (weather permitting). It takes a few minutes. It smells great. And – I was curious to see how much I might be able to save on our gas bill.

A lot has been written in recent years about old-time ways of doing things, forgotten recipes, lost arts.  Why the great interest? Obviously, given the number of books dedicated to these subjects, I’m not alone in my interest. And, I don’t have a burning desire to be a child again – our childhood, that of myself and my siblings, friends and cousins, wasn’t always all that easy. (My son Steve likes to roll his eyes and say “yeah, ma, tell us again how you had to walk ten miles to school in the snow, barefoot…”)

I never said we walked ten miles. We did walk—all the time, everywhere. (And, in the summertime, we were barefoot).  A couple of years ago, when my youngest brother Scott drove me around my childhood neighborhood of Fairmount, I was shocked and dismayed how much it had shrunk in size, and diminished in grandeur. The distance between our house and the school is probably not more than a mile but it was up hill and down, and seemed a long way for a child’s short legs. We walked to and from school in any kind of weather and I sometimes ran home for lunch, or else we walked to my grandmother’s house on Baltimore Avenue, up the street from St. Leo’s, and had lunch there. There was very little money for anything but you could always get fed at Grandma’s. I think food was her universal remedy for everything that ailed you.

One of the things that kids did around the neighborhood was to go around and collect soda pop bottles which could be redeemed at a corner grocery store for two cents each. Rarely did any of us have any spending money. Allowance? What was that? No one received an allowance.  When I became old enough to babysit, most of my spending money came from babysitting the neighbors’ children. And allowance or no, children were always expected to help with household chores. One of my earliest childhood chores was hanging socks on a wooden rack (in bad weather the rack could be propped open over a floor register, where the heat came up from the furnace. You also stood over a register to get warm while you got dressed on cold winter mornings). We were expected to wash and dry and put away dinner dishes, scrub floors, and—for the boys—mow the lawn, shovel snow, and clear the sidewalks in bad weather. My brother Jim had several part time jobs by the time he was about 12. One of these early jobs was “setting pins” at St. Bonaventure’s Bowling Alley in South Fairmount. Before automated pin setters were invented, young boys would have the job of setting up the bowling pins. There was a space between two alleys where a boy could sit, and set up the pins on either side of him. I’m amazed just thinking about it. Can you imagine a young boy being allowed to do something like that today? He could have easily gotten knocked silly by one of those bowling pins. I imagine many boys did get hurt doing this job.

Jim also delivered newspapers and in his early ‘teens, began working as a box boy at a food distribution company where one of our uncles was employed.  The neat thing about this was that my brother was allowed to bring home certain foods which had expired dates on them. We got a lot of canned biscuits that often exploded when we opened them—canned biscuits were a new thing in the early 1950s, and we didn’t care if they exploded. We baked them and ate them anyway.  There was also a new cookie mix that only required the addition of water and maybe an egg – I loved those cookie mixes.

Perhaps this explains the popularity of books such as Marguerite Patten’s “We’ll Eat Again”, a memoir of rationing in Great Britain during World War II, and cookbooks such as “Forgotten Recipes” and “Depression Era Recipes”, and magazines like “Reminisce”. It’s not so much that we long to relive those days as it is that we don’t want them to be forgotten. Who will remember these things when we are gone?
If you are interested in finding copies of any of these books – Lost Arts can be purchased on, pre-owned, for $5.00.  Forgotten Recipes can be found on starting at 99c for a pre-owned copy. has copies of Forgotten Recipes starting at one cent. You will pay $3.99 for shipping and handling but have the book for $4.00. Depression Era Recipes is on priced at 99c and up for a pre-owned copy. has copies starting at one cent & up for a pre-owned copy. Amazon also has new copies priced at $6.74. “We’ll Eat Again” by Marguerite Patten is higher priced at most websites although I did see one paperback copy on Amazon for 99c. My copy was a gift from a penpal.

A word of caution – when you type in any of these titles at either Amazon or Alibris, similar titles by other authors crop up and I could easily go on a wild spending spree and buy dozens of books.  It appears I am not alone in my quest to keep Lost Arts from becoming lost forever.

Sandra Lee Smith






GOOD HOUSE MAGIC” also by Carol Tennant is the fourth in this series that I originally reviewed for the CCE; it occurs to me that this book would be a beautiful companion reference book to “Good Kitchen Magic” to give to a new bride – or any young person you know who might be starting out in their first apartment and not know a great deal about how to do a lot of things (and not have mom at their elbow to show them!). Ok, so it’s NOT a cookbook–but how many easy to read and follow books tell you how to take care of your house or apartment?

Similar in style and format to the other Retro MQ books in this series, “GOOD HOUSE MAGIC” is filled with photographs and illustrations from another era—but there the similarity ends, for the ideas and suggestions offered in this, as well as the other MQ publications, are very up-to-date and cover such a wide range of topics.

The author starts with chapters that  suggest ways to set up your house or apartment, what things you will need, how to make your home attractive and comfortable—including a comprehensive list of cooking utensils, pans, casseroles, electric gadgets and baking equipment you’ll need to get started.

Within the pages of “GOOD HOUSE MAGIC”, you will learn some of the following:

  • How to care for antiques
  • How to  clean
  • How to  take care of  chimneys and fireplaces (how many how-to books tell you that?)
  • How to take care of your rare books
  • Caring for antique silver and metalwork
  • How to  care for paintings, drawings, and photos
  • How to  deal with allergies
  • Maintaining  care for your household plants—and getting the most from your cut flowers
  • How to      do laundry and take special care of your “delicates”

And…quite a lot more. You know, my sons grew up in a household where their father was self employed with a washer-and-dryer business for many years—so you’d think that they of all people would know something about doing laundry. Right? Wrong.  I was at one of my son’s not long ago, housesitting, and decided to take the load of towels out of the washer and put them into their dryer. I absolutely could not believe how overloaded their washer was.  A lot of the information in “GOOD HOUSE MAGIC” is really basic, and things most of us take for granted (like separating lights and whites from colored fabrics) – but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t know these basic concepts. There is such a wealth of information in “GOOD HOUSE MAGIC” –   you just might discover a lot of things you didn’t know either!

Ms. Marshall has published several books including one called “FUNKY STYLE” which was also published by MQ Publications.  She lives in London with her partner and two children.

“GOOD HOUSE MAGIC” published 2003 by MQ Publications originally sold for $16.95 in the USA. The ISBN # is 1-84072-451-X.  I found it listed on for $2.38 (new) or starting at one cent, pre-owned. has copies priced at $3.43 new, or starting at 99c for a pre-owned copy.

Originally reviewed for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 2004, GOOD  HOUSE MAGIC has staying power.

Reviewed by Sandra Lee Smith