Cookbooks are piling up again – time to get some cookbook reviews written–and I was thinking (yet again) how much diversity and incredible wealth of knowledge goes into  creating cookbooks. It doesn’t matter what state you live in, or what kind of cookbooks you find yourself collecting—with cookbooks there is something for everyone. I became interested in the beginning with church-and-club cookbooks because my father had given me one of those in the early 1960s after he bought them from a coworker at Formica. I was enchanted with that cookbook and wondered if there might be more of those “out there”. Now generally referred to as community cookbooks, these have a history that dates back to the American Civil War when women began collecting recipes to create cookbooks to raise money to help the war effort. It wasn’t very long before the  concept of collecting recipes for a church or club cookbook took off like a wild fire. I have written about these cookbooks before on my blog so I won’t dwell overlong on that topic except where it’s relevant to this post.

Even though I have never had the opportunity to travel along the American east coast- line (aside from living in Florida for a few years)—I am enchanted with lighthouses and what better place to find them than the east coast? (There are a pretty good number of them on the WEST coast too, some of which I have visited).  The problem has always been—much as I love to travel—almost every year, vacations have been planned around the graduations and weddings of my many nieces and nephews.

Much of what I have learned about the history of the East Coast of the United States has been gleaned from cookbooks.  “Cookbooks?” you ask. “Cookbooks” I affirm. When you pick up a cookbook titled COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING by Sherri Eldridge, you just know you will be rewarded with some local history.

In the preface, Sherri Eldridge writes, “Like most of America, our origins are from different cultures, all adapting to the same environment and available foods of this unique settling ground.  People of the European continent brought not only their traditions, but also the willingness to make a home In an unknown land, where the first arrivals couldn’t even recognize edible vegetation. Intercultural cooperation and the pooling of resources contributed to the creation of the New England cuisine…”

Sherri adds that with the publication of this second edition, a nutritional analysis has been added and recipes have been adapted to meet the guidelines of the American Heart Association for healthy adults.

Under a recipe for cranapple salad with honey sauce, she writes ”The Pilgrims, a small sect of English Puritans, had been exiled to the Netherlands in 1606. In exchange for the promise of religious freedom, they agreed to establish a trading post in the New World for a group of London investors. In 1620 the Pilgrims set sail in the Mayflower, landing in November at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod”  (We ALL learned about the pilgrims and the Mayflower in grade school-but I had never read about the English Puritans being exiled to the Netherlands—have you?—or that in exchange for a promise of religious freedom, those Puritans agreed to establish a Trading Post in the New World for London investors!) This is all news to me,

Eldridge writes elsewhere “The Pilgrims settled in “Plimouth Harbor” in the early winter of 1620. Without appropriate protection from the elements, little food, and knowledge of the local vegetation and wildlife, half did not survive the first winter”. (Probably senselessly dying without knowing or trying some of the local vegetation or wildlife to survive). But, writes Eldgridge, “Just 5 years later, the resiliency and determination of the Pilgrims had established ‘Plimouth’ (sic) as a permanent colony”

Elsewhere she writes, “Up until the late 1800s, the kitchen, where the fire was kept going 24 hours a day, was the center of living in most New England homes. Some family members even slept in the kitchen, where the house was always warmest.  In a deep cubbyhole at the side of the fireplace was a brick oven, used to bake pies, breads, gems and  muffins.”

In the chapter for Breads and Baked Goods, Eldridge provides yummy recipes for light raspberry muffins, Pumpkin Bran muffins, Carrot-raisin muffins, Beer Biscuits and many other bread recipes. Other chapters include  one on salads and fresh greens—some unusual combinations you will want to try, such as Chilled Beet and Apple Salad, Ginger Cole Slaw, Boston Bean Salad, Spinach and Blood Orange Salad—and others.

Main Meal Dishes is lengthy, offering many recipes reflecting fish and seafood from the Atlantic ocean – a New England Clam Bake, How to Eat Lobster & Clams (good one for many of us!), shrimp brochettes and Downeast Deviled Crab, Savory Braised Fish and Poached Salmon in Vermouth with Artichoke Cream as well as recipes for trout, scallops and shrimp. Eldridge offers a handy tip on cooking fish – she writes “Any fish cooked by any means, generally only requires only 10 minutes of cooking time  for each inch of thickness at its thickest part” (that’s one I will want to remember!)

There are many other interesting chapters and recipes in this spiral bound cookbook – including, I’m happy to say, some recipes for jam, jelly, preserves, relish, chutney and – not to be overlooked one for Pickled Zucchini (my son has a bumper crop of squashes coming along in his garden). has copies of COASTAL NEW ENGLAND FALL HARVEST COOKING starting at one cent for pre-owned copies.  **

One of the more interesting cookbooks to cross my line of vision recently is one titled THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK, by Bill Kurtis with Michelle M. Martin. Subtitled THE   REVOLUTION TOWARDS HEALTHY BEEF, FROM THE TRAIL TO GOURMET KITCHENS provides some clues to the content.  Also listed on the cover is another sub title, WITH RECIPES FROM: *CHEF Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, *Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and PBS’s MEXICO – ONE PLATE AT A TIME, *Executive Chef Paul Katz of Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, *Will Rogers, Gene Autry and Dale Evans, *Chef David Burns o the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field, and (last but not least *Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Dodge City May Jim Sherer.

This is a most unusual cookbook and one I wish I had owned when I was writing about American pioneers some years ago. Chapter 1 entices with Native American recipes, fried meat pies—even a recipe for pemmican. Included in Chapter 1 is a fascinating story of the tallgrass cattle drive. Equally fascinating is the explanation for an old American saying – “The real McCoy”. Here’s how it came about:

“In 1867 entrepreneur Joseph McCoy had a bold idea. It came to him when he was a livestock trader in Chicago witnessing the new technology of the day—railroads—transform the American West. If he could attract the great cattle herds moving out of Texas to an intersection with the railroads through Kansas, he could multiply his business ten-fold, maybe a hundredfold.

The intersecting point on the plains of Kansas was in Abilene, in the grass-rich Flint Hills. McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders to carry promotional posters to the Texas herds of longhorns already heading north. He promised that he would pay more per head in Abilene. He was so true to his word that eventually the whole nation would adopt the phrase “That’s the real McCoy!” One cattleman brought six hundred cows for which he had paid $5,400 and sold them to McCoy for $16,800….” (and now you know the rest of the story for the real McCoy but there is a great deal more to read about in the Prairie Table cookbook.

In the chapter “Prairie Cooking Today” we read that the recipes reproduced in this book are exactly as originally worded, even if they appear incorrect by today’s standards of grammar. And while researching this book, the authors learned that beef has always been an American tradition. The recipes and cooking methods may have changed but the desire for fresh, tender, succulent beef has not.

We also learn that the historical chapters will give us a glimpse of American lie in the West during the great cattle era, as well as a better appreciation of our modern conveniences.

When I was researching and writing about the American cowboy I deliberately didn’t dwell on the great cattle drives—my focus was on the individual cowboy. And there were many cookbooks and non-cookbooks to draw on. I just didn’t have THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK – it wasn’t published until 2008.

Included as well in chapter 1 of THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK is The American Indian Prairie Table—another aspect of the development of this great country that I wrote about in “Kitchens West” but co-authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin take the American Indian farther. (Before I go on, I just want to go on the record as saying that I believe the USA did the American Indians a great injustice. You can’t read about them without becoming drawn in, feeling their despair as all that they loved was taken away from them by the white man.    From the Journal of William Clark, dated June 10, 1804, we read his entry, “I walked out three miles, found the prairie composed of good land and plenty of water, roleing (sic) and interspursed (sic) with points of timbered land.  Those prairies are not open like those, or a number of those E. of the Mississippi void of everything except grass , they abound with Hasel (hazel) grapes and a wild plumb of a superior size and quality called the Osages Plumb, gross on a bush the hight of a Hasel and is three times the sise of other plumbs, and hang in great quantities on the bushes  I saw great numbers of deer in the prairies, the evening is cloudy, our party in high spirits…” (*I did not correct the misspelled words—these are as  they were written by the Lewis and Clark expedition!)

It continues, “With the stroke of a pen, President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the young American nation when he purchased the untapped Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He couldn’t explore it himself so he dispatched Captain William Clark and Lieutenant Meriwether Lewis to be his eyes and ears.  Carrying peace medals, blankets, beads, and assorted trinkets they kept detailed journals of their daily progress and observation of the vast lands that would become the American West.

Needless to say, no one consulted any of the American Indian tribes about the Louisiana Purchase.  Among the most striking of these people were the Osage, located in present day Kansas and Oklahoma. Even before Lewis and Clark, explorers like John Bradbury, an Englishman, described them in mythical terms:

The Osages are so tall and robust as almost to warrant the application of the term gigantic; few of them appear to be under six feet, and many are above it. Their shoulders and visages are broad which tend to strengthen the idea of their being giants”.

There are some interesting easy Indian recipes which include a Cherokee recipe for Egg Soup and Wild Grape Dumplings, as well as a “Gritted Sweet Potatoes” – “Gritted” had nothing to do with southern grits—“gritted” was a word for peeled.  Some pioneer recipes offer a recipe for Scrapple which isn’t all that easy to find anymore, except in some very old cookbooks

Chapter 2 is titled DINING WITH THE ARMY and this is another area not-much explored by food historians, aside from some very good books about what soldiers existed on throughout the Civil War. Authors Bill Kurtis and Michelle M. Martin write “Army life was built around the bugle call. It woke men in the morning, guided posting of the colors and told men when to eat, work, and sleep. The army also understood that food, one of the soldier’s few enjoyments, needed to be regimented. Each soldier in garrison received a daily ration of bread, salt pork, vegetables, if available and other items provided by the army through the Quartermaster. These rations were supposed to last a man for an entire month. Once a soldier’s rations ran out, he would be expected to procure supplies for himself from the post sutler.

(I immediately had to google “sutler” as this was a term with which I was unfamiliar. Wikipedia tells us:

sutler or victualer was a civilian merchant who sold provisions to an army in the field or in camp or quarters. Sutlers sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent allowing them to travel along with an army to remote military posts. Sutler’s wagons were associated with the military while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains. (And were undoubtedly the first “general stores” in a region).

Google also tells us that the word, sutler, like numerous other naval and military terms, came into English from Dutch where it appears as soetelaar or zoetelaar.  Originally, it meant “one who does dirty work, a drudge, a scullion, and derives from zoetelen (to foul, sully modern Dutch bezoedelen, a word cognate with “suds” (hot soapy water) “seethe” (to boil) and sodden. I have the feeling that the word – sutler – however it originated, may have drifted far afield.

Returning to Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin, “The sutler on any military post sold everything from fabric to food stuffs and had a monopoly over the sale of goods not provided to soldier by the Quartermaster supply. Any soldier could purchase goods against his meager salary. Nuts, fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, sugars, meats, wild game, cheese, crackers, grits, olive oil, oysters in cans and jars, pickles, licorice, rock candy and liquor were all to be found at the sutler’s store on post…”

The Kitchen philosophy from the United States Army manual for cooks, dated 1883, stresses “Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullets, and fats more fatal than powder. In cooking, more than anything else in the world, always make haste slowly. One hour too much is vastly better than five minutes too little, with rare exceptions. A big fire scorches your soup, burns your face, and crisps your temper. Skim, simmer and scour are the true secrets of cooking…”

Imagine my surprise, finding a recipe in The Prairie Table Cookbook for Fort Laramie Slumgullion! (My blog post for slumgullion stew is still one of my readers’ favorite articles. I posted it in 2009 and it still receives messages—slumgullion stew is many different things to many different people throughout the country.

To make Fort Laramie Slumgullion, you will need stew meat, potatoes, turnips, onions, any additional foraged vegetables, pepper and salt and water. Parboil the meat until tender. Add to boiling pot vegetables cut into pieces. Add water to sufficiently cover ingredients. Pepper and salt mixture and then boil until done, about 1 hour.

Chapter 3 is titled “Moving West” and this is a topic I have delved deeply in, in the past—but I appreciate and enjoy getting a new “take” on prairie settlers. There are recipes for roast beef, spiced beef, another roast beef and beef steaks as well as Fried Rabbit, Baked Prairie Chicken and French Stew. What I found most interesting is a page dedicated to a topic we have been writing about ever since I started a blog. It shows a close up of a couple of recipes and the authors write “Many housewives kept books in which they clipped recipes from newspapers, wrote down household hints, wrote their own poems and daily reflections, and crafted their own unique recipes for their families. Kitty Hayes Houghton was one such woman. Her notes, ideas on self-improvement, newspaper clippings on important issues, and recipes provide a glimpse   into the Flint Hills ranching lifestyle. The…recipes from Kitty and other pioneer wives, were found on tattered pages in between self-help columns, advertisements for dyspepsia cures, notes on hospitality, and poetry, and short stories written by women with much imagination and creativity”  (Haven’t I written about manuscript cookbooks and battered, tattered pages of an old church cookbook—possibly ad nauseum since this is a favorite topic.

Chapter 4 is the Cowboy Table on the Trail and this is another topic I have explored with you on my blog – but books like The Prairie Table Cookbook bring fresh outlooks on these subjects, along with photographs. New recipes and text offer readers a new take on what may be an old subject – but it’s never boring. Check out Helava Chili and Chuck Wagon Scrapple. You may want to try Ranch House Pot Roast and don’t overlook Squirrel Can Stew (no squirrel—it’s made with a sirloin steak but the “Squirrel can, I discovered was the name given to an empty lard can that sat next to the chuck wagon.    Cowboys scraped their plates into this can before putting their dishes in the “wreck” pan (a dish pan for washing). This was used to keep the camp more sanitary and clean. Cowboys would make remarks and crack jokes about food and coffee tasting as if the cookie had just dipped from the squirrel can. Joking aside, there was a code of conduct that cowboys were to observe with respect to eating and etiquette in camp. Breaking these camp commandments could get you in trouble with cookie and every cowboy knew that cookie was the one man everyone respected and wanted to please. If cookie wasn’t happy, no one was happy! – from the Prairie Table Cookbook.

The foregoing is just a sample of what you will find in The Prairie Table Cookbook.  THE PRAIRIE TABLE COOKBOOK was published in 2008 is available on with prices starting at one cent for a pre owned copy, or $2.47 for a new copy.   **

Next on my list of cookbooks (as we make our way from Sea to Shining Sea, is one titled THE BEST OF SIMPLY COLORADO COOKBOOK published by the Colorado Dietetic Association. This is a beautiful spiral bound cookbook with concealed rings (not visible from the outside of the book). In the 1980s, members of the Colorado Dietetic Association embarked on a fantastic journey into the world of cookbook publishing. The result and final destination: Simply Colorado: Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, published in 1989. The overwhelming success of Simply Colorado led to a second book, called Simply Colorado, Too! More Nutritious Recipes for Busy People, released in 1999. (Not surprisingly) sales of these books scored above the 150,000 mark. Simply Colorado led with more than 125,000 copies sold—a milestone for any coobook.

To celebrate their success, the members of the Colorado Dietetic Association did what any  successful fundraising group will do—they published a third cookbook, titled The Best of Simply Colorado. In this cookbook, which I am reading through now, the Association combined favorite recipes from both cookbooks. Reflecting changes in dietary guidelines, eating habits and food choices, The Best of Simply Colorado offers  the quick and easy tasty and healthy recipes you expect from Colorado’s food and nutrition experts (registered dietitians)

Also, recognizing that Colorado continues to be a cultural crossroads, The Best of Simply Colorado includes an assortment of recipes from the desert Southwest to the fragrant and flavorful Orient.

Published in 2006, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are those for 2005—not too drastic of a change for us in 2013.  There is even a page on modifying your favorite recipes. Now, I know pretty well how to modify most of my favorite recipes, but do you?

There are charts for substitutions, which you will find useful – and from there venture forth into a wide selection of appetizers, snacks and beverages, ranging from interesting recipes such as Cripple Creek Caviar (can you guess what the secret ingredient is?) tp Smoked Salmon Pate, beverages such as Mock Sangria and hot appetizers like savory stuffed mushrooms and stuffed mushrooms Florentine.

There is a recipe I can’t wait to try, called Southwestern Layered Dip—perfect for your next party.  Next chapter is simply titled “Brunch” but the  twenty-five brunch recipes are anything but—I don’t mean to imply that the recipes are “simple” – but rather simply wonderful—a glorious presentation of brunch casserole and crustless vegetable cheese pie, breakfast burritos to an assortment of coffee cakes and pancakes, waffles and smoothies.  These will become your instant go-to cookbook recipes every time you plan a brunch or breakfast. (I used to do a lot of these when my sons were younger—not so much anymore but it’s always good to know where to turn when a brunch beckons.  Or, if you are invited to a brunch and wanted to contribute something.—perhaps French Coffee Cake or Rhubarb Coffee Cake!

This is just a sampling of the Best of Simply Colorado; there are chapters on Soups and Stews, Salads, Vegetables, Breads, Muffins & Scones, Grains & Legumes, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meats, Vegetarian Entrees—and Desserts. Get out a package of those little square post-it notes to mark the pages you want to try. You will surely need an entire package of post-its.

The Best of Simply Colorado is available brand-new from for $12.42.  Pre-owned copies are available starting at $1.58 and up.  **

Lastly, arriving on the Pacific coast, I want to share with you a cookbook that I reviewed previously for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange—it was a joy to review. I love, love, love that part of California and would love to live there. Maybe in another life? **


Regional winner of the 1994 Tabasco Cookbook Award is a beautifully composed cookbook titled FEAST OF EDEN, from the Junior League of Monterey County, California.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc., is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism. Currently there are 140 active members and 302 sustaining members of the Junior League.

The Junior League has been actively working to improve Monterey County for 60 years. Our hands-on approach has enriched our community through the development of past League projects, including The Family Service Agency (started as the Family Resource Center), The Salinas Adult Day Care Center, the Monterey County Youth Museum (MY Museum), and the Silent Witness Exhibit. JLMC is also represented on the executive board of the United Way of Monterey County’s Success By 6 project.

FEAST OF EDEN is a lovely and appropriate play on names since its famous native son, John Steinbeck, wrote EAST of EDEN and a number of other wonderful books about the Monterey Peninsula.  If you are not familiar with them, DO read CANNERY ROW, TORTILLA FLATS, OF MICE AND MEN, SWEET THURSDAY and, of course, EAST OF EDEN. You will come to love, as did I, the village of Carmel by the Sea, the town of Monterey, Carmel Valley and Salinas, all places Steinbeck loved and wrote about.

I visited the Monterey Peninsula for the very first time in 1979 with a girlfriend who had spent summer vacations there as a very young child. We wandered the cobblestone streets of Carmel, with its old-fashioned street lights, meandering in and out of hundreds of cubby-hole shops and stores. We dined in tiny little restaurants, some with fireplaces, and sometimes at little street-side tables, people-watching while we dined on shrimp or pasta.

The village of Carmel is indescribable. It has been, for decades, an artists’ colony, but it is also a great tourist attraction, and once you visit, you will know why. I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to live there.

Meanwhile, share with me, for a few minutes, a love of Monterey and the presentation by the Junior League of Monterey County.

I confess to being partial; the Monterey Peninsula is one of my favorite spots on earth. Whenever possible, Bob and I would head north to camp in Carmel Valley and shop in the quaint village of Carmel. I have several black and white framed photographs of Point Pinos, the lighthouse on the Monterey Peninsula, that I printed and framed myself. They are on my bedroom walls, always beckoning.  When I am there, I feel like I am at home.

I can easily visualize, when – in the Introduction – the compilers of FEAST
OF EDEN tell us “Where the Santa Lucia Mountains separate the fields of Salinas from the Pacific Ocean, lies the garden paradise of Monterey County, California….life in Monterey County is highly textured. From the rocky cliffs of the agriculture fields of Salinas, to the thatched roofs of story book Carmel, to the diamond sparkle of the aquamarine waters of Pebble Beach..”

Accompanying  a rich array  of recipes which range from the elegant–Custard Baked French Toast…Spicy Grilled London Broil…Crab Cakes with Charon* sauce,  to the sublime—Baked Salmon with Tomato, Cucumber and Basil, Scallop Lasagna, or Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake…are colorful vignettes of life in Monterey county, which will enable you to understand a bit my love of this particular region  in California.  (*Charon Sauce is made with egg yolks, lemon juice and fresh Tarragon. I’m guessing it is closely related to Hollandaise sauce but with the addition of Tarragon. I was unable to find Charon Sauce on,).

Other recipes you might want to try – Zesty Crab and Artichoke Dip,  Eggplant Bruschetta, or perhaps the Tomato and Bacon Bruschetta – Monterey Phyllo Triangles, Thai Meatballs, Pastures of Heaven Salad or Steinbeck Country Salad. Feast on Praline Breakfast Rolls or Apple Spice Muffins—or try the Chocolate Zucchini Cake that I think I am going to make with the zucchini my sister brought over.

FEAST OF EDEN provides many vignettes about life in Monterey County.  Read, for instance, that “Early Carmel-by-the Sea had few telephones, no electricity, no paved roads and the rudimentary wooden sidewalks lined only Ocean Avenue…but to many it was a refuge from an increasingly technological world…” or that “Life in Carmel in the 1920s and 1930s was both carefree and communal. Villagers might meet each other at all times of the day or night in all kinds of dress.

Author Mary Austin would roam the woods dressed as an Indian Princess in Greek robes. Each day, city residents would greet each other in their bathrobes at the milk stations – sets of shelves set up where residents would leave money at night and pick up their milk in the morning”.

FEAST OF EDEN with over 225 triple-tested recipes featuring healthy, fresh ingredients, is beautifully done, with wonderful color photographs of various dishes, and many of the historical sites for which Monterey County is so famous.

SANDY’S COOKNOTE:  The above was written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, probably in 1994 or 1995. When the cookbook was first published in 1994, it sold for $19.95.  It is available on new starting at $4.83, and pre-owned starting at one cent (remember that  book purchases from private vendors always carry a $3.99 shipping & handling charge.)

Since 1994, I don’t remember how many more trips Bob & I would make to Monterey. Once, we made the trip in a Chinook I had bought, and we camped in Carmel Valley. It was our favorite place to visit.

Now we have traveled from coast to coast, from Sea to Shining Sea–computer style!

–Sandra Lee Smith



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