SOME FLORIDA COOKBOOKS TO THINK ABOUT

It was my intention to spend this weekend putting cookbooks away – or at least get them sorted and in front of the bookcase where they will ultimately reside—but (not surprisingly) every time I start to sort cookbooks, I find something interesting that I want to read—and share with blog subscribers. Today are some Florida cookbooks I’d like to share. These may or may not be available through online sources such as Amazon.com or Alibris.com—I’ll check them out as I go along.

The first cookbook and the oldest in this group is something titled FAVORITE RECIPES compiled by Chapter N, P.E.O., Miami, Florida, dated 1966. The best I can tell you is that a P.E.O. is a Professional Employer Organization – this is from Google. If anyone knows more, please let me hear from you.

This cookbook is only a little more than a booklet, bound by 2 rings with what appears to be offset printing and signed recipes. What I like about it are the recipes I haven’t found anywhere else, such as Hot Water Spoon Bread and a recipe for Refrigerator Rolls, which keeps for a week in the refrigerator and can be taken out in portions to shape and bake. I used to make something similar, called Angel biscuits, around the 1970s—the dough kept well in a large Tupperware container. I think this is similar.

I found a recipe for using a yellow crookneck squash which is handy right now when my son Kelly’s garden keeps producing more and more yellow squash when it thinks no one is looking, but what I have found most interesting are the multiple recipes for cracker pie. One is called Ritz Cracker Pie and is made with crushed Ritz Crackers; another called Florida Special Pie is also made with Ritz crackers (which you may or may not remember is the ingredient used in making mock apple pie, which I wrote about some time ago). Then I found a recipe for cracker pie, using soda crackers (saltine crackers) which I had the good fortune to taste when it was made by a co-worker named Marty, at the SAG health Plan, where I began working in 1977. The office was located on the second floor of the KBIG radio station in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. This brought back warm memories so here is a recipe for you to try:

CRACKER PIE

3 TBSP melted butter
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
10 soda crackers, rolled fine
Chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla

Pour melted butter into pie tin, set aside. Beat the egg whites with salt and add sugar. Combine soda crackers, egg white mixture, nuts and vanilla. Pour into pie tin of melted butter and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with ice cream and fruit.
The following recipe, called Soda Cracker Pie, may be the one I enjoyed at work many times. It’s almost, but not quite, the same recipe from the Florida cookbook. To make Soda Cracker pie you will need

3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup finely chopped pecans
20 saltine crackers, crushed
Whipped cream, optional

Beat egg whites (save yolks for another use) until stiff but not dry. Add sugar gradually while beating, then add baking powder. Fold in nuts and crushed crackers. Pour into a well greased 9” pie plate. Bake at 325 degrees 45 minutes. Cool. Top will cracker. Top with whipped cream. Makes 6 servings.

As I said, it brought back fond memories. There were only forty something employees of the health plan when I started working there in 1977. I had never before worked in a better or more delightful environment – it was a pleasure to get up and go to work every day; the hours passed by quickly and many of my co workers became dear friends. When I retired from the Health Plan in 2002, we had moved twice – first to North Hollywood and then to our own new building in Burbank, in 1986. Cracker pie brought back some nostalgia of the days working in the greatest company. **
Favorite Recipes of the Florida P.E.O. isn’t likely to turn up in a book store or internet site, but some of the following are:

COOKING UP A STORM FLORIDA STYLE is a spiral bound cookbook compiled and printed by Brookwood, a young women’s residence in St Petersburg, in 1993. Brookwood was, in 1993, celebrating a 66-year success story of providing care and services to young women in St Petersburg. It was chartered in 1927 as a Florence Crittenton Home for unmarried women who came from all over the eastern United States to have their babies in privacy and seclusion. After 50 years, the home became a Young Women’s Residence and repositioned to meet challenges of teenage girls in the 1990s and into the 21st century. Residents ages 13 to 18 come from all over Florida and are victims of the people they trust the most—their families. They have been abused, abandoned, neglected or come from families in crisis. The goal of Brookwood is to help each resident realize her potential and help her take her place in the community. Cooking Up a Storm is a great addition to your collection and if you need a charity to support, this is one you should check into. (I didn’t know about Brookwood until a copy of their cookbook fell into my lap.

The book was printed by Favorite Recipes Press (which I have written about before) and was very well done. You can find it on Amazon.com priced at $11.33 for a pre-owned copy or $23.50 for a new one. And what do you suppose I found in the chapter devoted to pies? A recipe for Graham Meringue Pie that is similar to cracker pie, but made with crushed graham crackers instead of saltines, and with chopped dates added to it.

To make Graham Meringue Pie you will need:

14 medium graham crackers, crushed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt together. Beat egg whites in mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold in sugar and crumb mixture. Add dates, walnuts, and vanilla. Mix gently. Spoon into greased 9” pie plate. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish servings with whipped cream. May substitute pecans for walnuts. Makes 8 servings. (I found an almost identical recipe in my files, for the above Graham Meringue Pie, that was printed in the L.A. Times in July, 1978 – only it was called “Cement Pie” instead!)

There is a cookbook called OUT OF THIS WORLD COOK BOOK that was compiled by the Cocoa Beach Woman’s Club in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The first edition of this cookbook was published in 1973; I mention this because Volume II was published twelve years later, in 1985. In the Foreword the club members say that “The Out of this World Cook Book is dedicated to all those who have had a part in the space program on the Ground, or in Outer Space or on the Sidelines. It includes the wives who have served meals at odd hours to husbands who have worked odd hours and all those who have served meals to the many V.I.P.s and friends who descended on the Space Cost for every launch….”

The recipes were contributed or collected and tested by members of the Coca Beach Woman’s Club” and the book itself is more than just a cookbook….one of the treasures is a list of the NASA Manned Space Flights starting with May 6, 1961, ending with the July 15-24 1975 flight. The names of the crews are listed, along with the number of Orbits and the names of the Projects (i.e., starting with Mercury Redstone…ending with Apollo CSM.

There is an article titled Food Fit for Astronauts which helps explain what foods were specially packaged for the astronauts, and an interesting article titled “Cocoa Beach In the Middle of Space” by Idalee Scholz, explaining what Cocoa Beach was like before the Space Program came along—the population of Cocoa Beach before the space program was 246. By 1960 the population of their little town had grown to 3,485 – and in 1973, when this article was written, the population of Cocoa Beach had grown to 11, 555. This article is a really interesting read for anyone who wonders what happens to a tiny little seaside town when the space program takes over their territory.

As for recipes, OUT OF THIS WORLD COOK BOOK has a great deal to offer—especially for those who find celebrity contributions interesting. Practically this entire cookbook reads like a who’s who in the space industry. I was charmed enough to start searching on Amazon.com for Volume II published in 1985.

*Also want to add that I had a small long-distance participation in the space program when I was working at Weber Aircraft in 1965. Weber had the contract to fabricate the astronauts’ space harnesses. Weber sub-contracted the harnesses to Northrop Ventura. I worked for a gentleman who handled all the correspondence between NASA and Northrop Ventura. Weber Aircraft was always abuzz whenever one of the astronauts visited the company—as it was when Lt. Colonel Edward White visited the plant after his walk in space. For some reason, he had to be re-fitted for a new harness. My boss arranged for me to be introduced to Lt. Colonel Ed White—I was totally abashed to shake the hand of the man to first walk in space—and I cried when astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee died in an on-the-ground fire inside their space capsule in January, 1967. That remains one of those incidents in your life when you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.

Volume 1 of OUT OF THIS WORLD COOK BOOK is available on Amazon.com, $3.53 for a spiral bound copy. The 1985 edition is available starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy—or, if you can believe it, a new copy of Volume II can be yours for only $95.98! (I couldn’t resist including this – what world do you think that book vendor is living in?) I just ordered a copy of Volume II for one cent, plus $3.99 shipping – so I will be getting a copy for $4.00. 

There is one other Florida cookbook I would like to share with you. This is a lovely cookbook called SEASIDE PASTELS & PICKETS, A COMPENDIUM OF RECIPES, published in 1994 by the Seaside Town Council in Seaside, Florida. Seaside is located in the Florida Panhandle and is an eighty acre planned community. Introducing some of the chapters are tantalizing photographs of some of the homes in Seaside and tempting recipes of many different kinds. The cookbook is extraordinary, delightfully designed by Favorite Recipes Press.

SEASIDE PASTELS & PICKETS is available new, from Amazon.com for only $4.95 and pre-owned starting at one cent. I hope this gives you something to think about!

–Reviews by Sandra Lee Smith

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3 responses to “SOME FLORIDA COOKBOOKS TO THINK ABOUT

  1. they all sound really good. Marilyn

  2. PEO is much more likely to be a women’s service organization, the Philanthropic Educational Organization. A number of PEO cookbooks have appeared over the years. One that was reprinted in the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts series dates back to 1908.

  3. Susan, the cookbook doesn’t provide a clue to the source–just Miami, 1966, PEO – and when I googled PEO, dozens of named popped up. I think I may have even seen a reference to the Szathmary Culinary Arts series which, you may know, has been a pet project of mine to write about. I agree, its likely a women’s service organization but I wasn’t able to zoom in on anything current in Miami. Thanks for the Input – Sandy

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