Monthly Archives: November 2013

JOURNAL NOTES FROM NOVEMBER, 1963

November 24, 1963 – “…And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” – JFK

There is an old saying that when someone dies, the clock stop.

Certainly time has seemed to come to a standstill since Friday afternoon when our president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.  The man arrested for the murder, Lee Oswald, was killed today, shot by a man called Jack Rubenstein. Oswald was being transferred to the county jail at Dallas when the shooting occurred. The scene was televised and we saw the man, heard the shot, and saw him clutch his stomach and fall.

Needless to say, the terrible and tragic death of our beloved president has left the nation shocked and speechless. We are horrified that this could happen, distressed that a man loved so much is gone, angry that anyone could do this terrible thing and shamefully aware of the awful loss of Jacqueline Kennedy and her two small children, both of whom have birthdays next week.  The President will be buried on John Jr.’s third birthday. Caroline will be six two days later. Our loss is great, but theirs is so much greater. We have lost our great leader, but they have lost a father and a husband.

There are so many loose ends in the entire affair that leave one confused and apprehensive. Many feel that somehow, someway, Russia is behind all this.

It has been proven that the murder was premeditated. Oswald spent several years in Russia and was married to a Russian. Jack Rubenstein, who daringly and openly fired upon Oswald is not exactly a savory character. They know that Oswald had previously been in Rubie’s nightclub. WHO is really behind it all? Russia? Cuba? Segregationalists? China? Will we ever know? Oswald knew – but now he’s dead and not telling.

Time has stood still since early afternoon two days ago. Stores, businesses, of all kinds, have closed their doors. All regular television and radio programming has been cancelled until further notice and we have watched with seriousness and soberness, the news films from Friday, when the President was killed, to the filming of the funeral march in Washington to the on-the-spot shooting of Oswald, the assassinator.

Tomorrow the mass and burial will be televised. All types of business, city, state, governmental and individual will be closed. The similarities between John F. Kennedy & nearly 100 years ago, Abraham Lincoln, are on everyone’s mind. That history does in fact repeat itself is quite evident.

The similarities seem too numerous to be simply coincidental. A more ardent researcher might uncover more but so far I have noted these:

1)    Both presidents were fighting for civil rights.

2)    Both were advised against attending the function which led to disaster.

3)    Both were shot in the head.

4)    In both instances, usual security measures were apparently lax.

5)    Both were assassinated on a Friday.

6)    Both lost a son during office. President Lincoln lost his son Tad and only last August the Kennedy’s newborn infant son died.

7)    BOTH were succeeded by their vice president, both of whom bear the name of Johnson.

There’s a time difference of almost 100 years. Both were unquestionably great leaders and history has indeed, repeated itself.

November 25 1963 – the 35th President of the United States was buried today I a beautiful yet classically simple and altogether impressive ceremony. I could not do it justice in telling, but I know that Jacqueline handled most of the planning. Every country except China had sent a dignitary representative and Jackie was hailed by most nations for her tremendous courage.

I was particularly impressed by several incidents – when Mike Mansfield read his speech [eulogy] in which he capitalized on Jackie’s taking off her ring and placing it in John’s hand “And she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hand” in one sentence he said “There was a husband who asked much    and gave much and out of the giving and asking wove with a woman what could not be broken inn life and in a moment, it was no more…”

I would like to obtain a copy of the entire speech. After the mass was over, Cardinal Cushing, who married the Kennedys, stopped by Caroline, bent over and kissed her tenderly.

And at Arlington National Cemetery, at one point 50 jet planes flew by, in twos and threes, all except for the last one, which flew alone to signify the missing leader.  It was altogether beautiful, and one could not help the tears – our loss is great and I only hope the nation has learned a lesson from it all.

Jan 15, 1964 – the following is the speech made by Mike Mansfield, at the time of the death of President Kennedy. Its eloquence and pure simplicity seem to convey the feelings of so many of us: [Actually, this is the eulogy Mansfield delivered on November 24, 1963. At the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol].

“There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a wit in a man, neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man’s wisdom and of a child’s wisdom, and then in a moment, it was not more.

There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a father with a little boy, a little girl and a joy of each in the other. In a moment it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands, and kissed him and closed the lid of a coffin.

A piece of each of us died at that moment. Yet, in death he gave of himself to us. He gave us of a good heart from which the laughter came. He gave us of a profound wit, from which a great leadership emerged. He gave us of a kindness and a strength fused into a human courage to seek peace without fear.

He gave us of his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room, no room at all, for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice, and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down.

In leaving us — these gifts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, leaves with us. Will we take them, Mr. President? Will we have, now, the sense and the responsibility and the courage to take them?”

As one person put it, it’s a shame that all the good that has been said about this was not said when he was alive.  Memorials, libraries, streets, buildings, places all across the country have been or are being renamed after this man.  Idlywild Airport has become The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Airport.

Ben Franklin’s image will no longer adorn the fifty cent pieces. The late President’s image will.  Personally, I applaud each tribute – what tribute can ever be enough? The man is gone.

I think often of his wife and children. Much has been written about the strength and courage Jacqueline displayed throughout the entire ordeal. This week’s Life Magazine said it most succinctly: “Valiant is the word for Jacqueline Kennedy.”

They say over 800,000 letters & telegrams have been received by the Kennedy family and in a newscast, the first Mrs. Kennedy made since the assassination, it was said that she intends to try to answer as many as possible! The messages, they said, would be kept at the Kennedy Memorial (I wrote a small note & sent it to her. I felt I just had to).

November 23, 2013 – hard to believe that I wrote those lines fifty years ago,  when I was 23 years old.  Those of us who  remember find ourselves wondering what more JFK might have accomplished if he had the opportunity to live out his life. – sls

 

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IF YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER NOVEMBER 22, 1963

We had returned to Cincinnati in March, 1963. Michael, who was two at the time, and I flew back to Ohio and Jim followed by car a month later. I was pregnant with Steve and immediately returned to my old job downtown. I worked until two weeks before Steve’s birth on August 21st.  And so it happened that I was coming upstairs in my mother-in-law’s house with a basket of diapers to fold—when I caught the news coming in on the television. President Kennedy had been shot!

The next three days are a blur of everything running together; I cried for three days, unable to stop watching the TV coverage. The election in which JFK was elected president was the first time I followed all the election results on television. I watched the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon, during which Kennedy won the debates, hands down. JFK had such enormous charisma—I couldn’t understand how or why anyone wouldn’t be captivated by his charm. I wrote several letters to Jackie – the first one when their newborn infant, Patrick, died—I think the baby died right about the same time that my son Steve was born. I wrote to her again when JFK was assassinated—and amongst my treasures are the cards that Jackie sent out to everyone, acknowledging our sympathy. I remember she received an avalanche of letters and sympathy cards (I read somewhere that over 800,000 cards and letters were received). My heart ached for Jackie and her children. It was not until years later that I realized how young she was to direct and order everything for the funeral with such eloquence and an eye on the historical significance of everything she ordered being done.

In December, we returned to California for financial reasons; this time with a toddler and a 4 month old baby.  We drove across ice and snow until we reached the middle of Texas—it was a risky trip—looking back I would never risk the lives of two little boys like we did that December, anxious to get back to California before the weather got any worse. We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and for a short while I was a stay-at-home mother.  Jim went to work for Weber Aircraft in January, and soon I was hired by Weber Aircraft too, to work in their offices.

I bought and saved all the newspapers and magazines about JFK; there were a lot of memorial booklets. Now, fifty years later, there are 50th anniversary memorial booklets. I do remember 1963, far more clearly than I remember other years of my life.

MY LONG-TIME OREGON PENPAL BEV WROTE: “IF you are old enough – oh, ya….. Yes, I certainly can remember.  I was relieving on the switchboard at the paper mill when my bosses’ wife called in.  Before she asked for Ted, she told me what had just happened.  The reaction, of course, was disbelief.  I can still see the switchboard as it was in front of me at that very moment.  It was one of those old things with the cords that you connected from the outside line coming in, to whomever they wanted.  It was lots of fun to operate, and we rotated out taking over on breaks and lunch for Doty, the gal who worked as the receptionist for nearly 30 years.  Beautiful gal, still is.  She was 2 years ahead of me in school, the yell queen, married the handsome guy a couple years older.  I digress……..but then, when don’t I?

Leroy (Bev’s husband)  said he was in the car just ready to get out to go inside the Lloyd Center Mall in Portland where he worked at Leeds Shoes.  America probably would have been in a much better position now if that shot had never been fired.  Makes you wonder…   In that day and time, he [JFK] would not have been brought down for his hanky-panky.”

Richard is an email penpal who is from Cincinnati, and now lives in New Jersey: RICHARD WROTE THE FOLLOWING TO SUBMIT TO A NEWSPAPER:

UP A TREE AT JFK’S FUNERAL

Like most people my age, I remember precisely where I was on the day JFK was assassinated. But I also remember where I was two days later: up a tree – literally.

On Saturday morning, the day after the assassination, three of my college classmates and I decided to pool our meager funds and drive overnight from Cincinnati to attend JFK’s funeral. We drove all night to Washington, D.C., arriving at about 10 am Sunday morning.

The crowds were already 8-10 people deep on the sidewalks, and at first I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But then I spied a tree devoid of leaves, and I climbed up and claimed a spot that would provide me with a good vantage point from which to watch the procession.

Not only did I have a good view of the funeral route, but I also could see all along Pennsylvania Avenue, up towards the White House and down to the Capitol. Throngs of people lined both sides of the avenue. Estimates were that 300,000 people had come out that day to pay their respects. I had never been part of such a large gathering in my life. Nor would I ever again.

Then about 11:45 in the morning, while I was trying to keep warm up in the tree, someone just below me who had a transistor radio, began to yell out,

“Oswald’s been shot! Oswald’s been shot!” Like the effect you get when you throw a stone into a lake, the news rippled out in waves all along the route for as far as I could see. Many cheered and applauded upon hearing the news, as if some just retribution had taken place. But I must confess that certain sadness overwhelmed me then, for all I could think about in my perch above it all was, “Now we’ll never know. Now we’ll never know.”

An hour or so later the funeral passed by: the muffled drums, the caisson bearing JFK’s remains, the rider-less horse, and the Kennedy family. The crowd was respectfully quiet, although many openly shed tears.  White handkerchiefs dotted the sea of people. The mourning was so intense I could feel it rising from the street. It was clear that people genuinely loved this man, and I felt that I was witnessing a defining moment in 20th Century American history.

After the funeral passed I dropped to the ground and joined my friends and hundreds of others following the procession on foot to the Capitol.  Once in the crowd, I turned to find myself walking and arm’s length away from Charles de Gaulle and Halie Selassie, and I was astonished to see that they and the scores of other foreign dignitaries had no security around them. Such openness, I feared, would soon come to an end.

The lines were so long outside the Capitol rotunda where JFK’s body lay in state that we decided we couldn’t afford to wait many long hours to pay our respects. Instead we turned around and drove home for twelve hours, each of us quiet for long periods of time, silently lost in our personal mourning.  As we drove into the night, I thought about the country’s loss, and how, for one brief moment, JFK brought us a fresh spirit of change and hope for a better tomorrow.

But now Camelot had ended. Hope was gone. And I realized that America would never be the same after that day I spent up a tree in Washington, D.C., on November 24, 1963.”

BARB, A CLASSMATE FROM MY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, ST. LEO’S, WROTE THE FOLLOWING: “I think all of us can remember what we were doing on November 22…..what a terrible day that was. I was watching TV where they had TV Bingo. I was covering numbers when they interrupted with the news. The announcers were crying…..everyone was crying. My son was about 18 months old and I was glad he kept me busy. My husband was upset too as was most of the USA. It was hard not watching the TV, we just wanted to know everything we could. We all just felt so helpless and sad. I don’t know if I would feel that sad if it was today’s president. No……I know I wouldn’t!”  (me, either, Barb—sls)

PENPAL AND PRAYER PAL GIRLFRIEND WROTE: “I was living in Ne and my son Ted who will turn 52 Nov 24 was so little and I remember the news about Kennedy coming on TV and what a shock. I called his grandma who lived around the corner from us and we were so sad with this news.”

GIRLFRIEND AND FORMER COWORKER LORRAINE WROTE: “Sandy- I was 5 years old and am not sure what I was doing that day- probably playing- but I do remember the day – the shock and tears of my grandparents, mother and Aunt.  Watching the events unfold on tv and realizing even at that young age that our country had just lost a very special man.  It is one of my earliest memories of realizing there was a whole big world out there and not just my little 5 year old one.”

GOOD FRIENDS RAY & SYLVIA WROTE: “We were living in Dallas on that day. Ray’s office was actually on the parade route & many of them went down & watched the president go by, then back upstairs where a few minutes later Mr. Kennedy was shot & killed. It was a numbing time in Dallas, just pure shock whether you were a Kennedy supporter or not. For months after that we got dirty looks from people when we drove out of state with our Texas tags.”

FROM MY LONG-TIME GIRLFRIEND FAYE: “Sandy, I cannot believe that 50 years later I find out that we were both in Cincinnati on Nov. 22, 1963, but me and Marvin were living outside of Cincinnati and I had just taken Kathy to school and was listening to the news when Walter Cronkite came on with the news.  I also cried all day and was really sad, but Marvin worked for a Republican that hated Kennedy and naturally he said the same thing that his boss said and it was ‘I’m glad he is dead, as far as I am concerned it took them too long to get rid of him’.

But what floors me is that we were both back there and I did not know it. Marvin’s unfeeling remarks are not news to me but I was shocked that anyone would say that about our beloved President…”

PENPAL MARGE N. WROTE: “ Yes, I remember that day.  I heard word of it while sitting in a dentist office in Boonville, NY, with my two young sons.  We didn’t have a TV at home, so after I got home I listened to the radio – the one station that we were able to receive way out in nowhere!  It also happened on what would have been my father’s 56th birthday – he had passed away when he was 47…”

DONNA, WHO IS ONE OF MY GROUP EMAIL PALS WROTE: This is what I sent to my local newspaper

“I was a High School Senior in my World Problems class in Tacoma, WA. We were not allowed to go home, but no work was done. We maintained the regular schedule, but just sat around and mourned. First we heard the President had been shot, it was some time later we heard that he had died. Because he was such a young President, we all liked him very much. Actually, it had just been about a month earlier that he had come to Tacoma and we got out of  school to go see him at the Cheney Baseball Stadium. The place was packed
with people; of course with a lot of security, including gunmen on the roof of the bleachers. Our group ended up out in center field. Kennedy was at a Podium placed at the Pitcher’s Mound. We really could not see a thing. I remember jumping up in the air to see and even my quick glimpse of the President was exciting – as he had plenty of charisma.

I finally got home on that fateful day and found the house empty. My Mom sold Avon at the time and was out seeing one of her customers. I think she felt the need to talk to someone. I quickly turned on the TV. Shortly, I heard a funny noise in the nearby fireplace. I heard it several times and wondered if I was “losing” it.

It wasn’t too long before my Mom got home and I told her about the noise in the fireplace. She had heard it earlier and thought a fairly large bird had gotten caught in the chimney. She had called the Humane Society, but with the sudden turn of events no one came.  The next day the bird was still caught in the chimney. We called the Humane Society again. My Dad and I had gone to the store and so we missed being there when the HS officer came to the house. My Mom said it was a red bird (fairly large), called a Towhee and that it was very pretty. They were not common to our area.

Our family was glued to the TV all weekend, like everyone else. I was the  only member of the family watching the live broadcast when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.

When we went back to school, maybe the next Tuesday – the student teacher in our World Problems class (where we had first heard the news) surprised us with a Pop Quiz on World Issues. Nothing to do with the National Tragedy. I  didn’t think that was fair, but I guess it was his way of telling us to get  on with our life…”

CHRIS, ANOTHER MEMBER OF ONE OF MY EMAIL PENPAL GROUPS, WROTE:  “Wow 50 years!  Nothing out of the ordinary as far as memories go…..just that I was in high school.  I can still remember the room and the looks on everybody’s faces when the loud speaker cracked, came to life and the principal made the announcement.  I’m sure the first thing we did was pray.  Then a TV was brought in so we could watch.”

MY CANADIAN PENPAL, SHARON, WROTE: “Sandy, I remember so well what I was doing, even though I’m Canadian. I was in my Grade 11 Science class when the announcement came over the PA system. The principal told us that school was dismissed and I remember how quiet it was as we left our classrooms and our school and headed home.

We watched as events unfolded in the days that followed, glued to the TV and I can remember the funeral broadcast as well…”

MY OTHER CANADIAN EMAIL PENPAL, DOREEN, WROTE THE FOLLOWING—AND IT IS SO WELL-WRITTEN, I will use this to bring my blog post to a finish on this topic. DOREEN WROTE:

“Okay, I was at work in the steno pool for Sears Catalogue in 1962 when Kennedy was shot.  We stopped work and listened together to a small plastic radio in the manager’s office.  It shook me up plenty.  Jack Kennedy was the voice of political change.  All the leaders were old men in the US and Canada with military leadership styles and along came Jack.  The Black movement had started in the South and on our television screens we saw the US as we had never considered it before.  There stood Kennedy saying things needed to change and people had rights.  Change was all over in the 60’s and we all were coming out from under autocratic rule in our homes, schools, and workplaces.  We were all finding we had voices and Jack Kennedy represented hope.  The looming wall of Soviet Russia was over our heads but here in North America we were changing and when President Kennedy was shot it was like the iron hand of Soviet rule was falling over our heads and squashing change.  However; there was still Bobby and we expected he would continue to make it right.  The door had been left ajar and we were young and nothing could stop it from flying open as we all stormed out.

No one could understand (children and grandchildren) the rule of law we grew up under.  Parents were absolute, children were seen and not heard, from daylight to nightfall someone adult was ordering us around to pick up a share of the work that surrounded us all.  Children could not decide when to talk about something or choose whom to speak to.  Everything was tight, money, freedom, hope, and our futures were something looming but not to be spoken of.  It was like we were supposed to grow up and poof like an inflated balloon be gone from our parents home with no thought to how the process would take place.  Jack Kennedy was planning and Martin Luther King was planning.  Kids of the 60’s were making plans for themselves.  “It was the best of times and the worst of times,” as Charles Dickens wrote.”   ***

I wrote the following poem a few years after the assassination and submitted it to the Valley (San Fernando Valley) News, where it was published.

IN MEMORY

By

Sandra Lee Smith

(1963)

November Twenty Second

Nineteen Hundred Sixty-Three

Is remembered and recorded

On a page in history.

Scores of generations, yes,

And even those unborn

Will remember–and remembering–

They too shall sadly mourn.

The sun was shining brightly

As crowds gathered to behold

Their leader — and would witness

All the drama to unfold;

They came to see a motorcade

And watch their chief go by —

Unknowing that their buoyant cheers

Would swiftly, mid-air, die.

Sharp shots rang out–a nation bowed

Its head in wordless shame–

Joined together, briefly now,

A land without a name.

His head was clasped upon the lap

Of his beloved wife,

A motorcade raced desperately

To save his ebbing life.

To what avail? Their efforts failed!

What matters that they tried?

Shepardless, this nation watched,

As he, their leader, died.

A nurse said “Caroline, my dear,

Your darling daddy’s dead..”

And on November twenty-fifth,

A little boy was three,

He stood and watched a cortege pass

And asked “Where can he be?”

Horses, six-gray-white drew near–

The small boy breathed a sigh,

Saluted, without knowing that

His father had passed by.

–Sandra Lee Smith

SOME MORE FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

My collection of Christmas-themed cookbooks actually fills one entire large bookcase; even so, there are a few favorite cookbooks that I turn to year after year. Ditto some of the recipes typed or written on 3×5” recipe cards—the cookie recipe cards fill have a dozen recipe boxes but there are some that are more worn and frequently used than others. I imagine most of us have favorites like these.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Mimi Sheraton’s VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS.  Even the title is captivating. VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS was first published in 1968. Mine is a revision published in 1981 by Harper & Row.

VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS is subtitled “A cookbook of cakes, cookies, candies & confections from all the Countries that celebrate Christmas” Sheraton had me captivated in the first paragraph of the Preface, where she writes, “When this book was first published thirteen years ago, it represented the results of what might be considered a hobby—a joint interest in Christmas and in food that had led me to collect recipes for traditional Christmas confections over many years…”  (Are we soul sisters? Long lost twins?)

Later, she comments, “No holiday has a wider variety of special symbolic foods than Christmas and anyone who prepares the cakes, cookies, candies and drinks related to that holiday can feel a long connection with the past, for many of the foods maintain traditions that began centuries ago—some even before Christianity itself…”

Following is the Introduction featuring the Six Weeks of Christmas, From Advent to Twelfth night in which Sheraton writes, “No Christmas memory would seem to be complete without recollections of the holiday foods, most especially the sweets: the yeasty coffee breads golden with saffron and mace; the aged and ripened fruit cakes spiked with whiskey or brandy and jeweled with bits of candied fruits; crisp butter cookies peppery with ginger or aromatic with anise; darkly rich mince pies, plum cakes and puddings; the flaming wine punches and soul-warming wassails; the sensuously sweet taffies and marzipan candies; and the pervasive comfortable scents of vanilla, peppermint, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves…”  This is followed with all the Six weeks of special holiday observances, including December  6th and 7th, St Nicholas Eve and Day, which was celebrated religiously in my childhood home. We hung long white socks of my father’s (because they were bigger) and would find a tangerine, some walnuts, hard candies and maybe a small toy in our stockings. I don’t recall ever having a tangerine at any other time of the year and it still amazes me to think we had a prolific tangerine tree in our front yard in Arleta.

January 6th is known alternatively as Three Kings’ Day or Night, the Feast of the Magi, Twelfth Night – to us, as children, it was the Feast of the Three Kings and my grandmother made doughnuts for us – each doughnut would have a coin in it, usually a nickel or a dime, I think.

Because I want to remain focused on cookies, I’ll save a more detailed description of VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS for another time – Chapter Three, Cookies & Small Cakes, starts with Drop and Bar Cookies from various countries – Brandy Snaps from England, Anise Drops from Germany, Canadian Fruit squares and Elise Lebkuchen from the ancient Bavarian city, Nuremberg. I think the Honey Lebkuchen is the recipe I have been making for several decades.

There are recipes for Hazelnut Macaroons, Pine Nut Macaroons, Chocolate Macaroons—take your pick!  Pepper Nuts is called Pfeffernusse in Germany or Pepparnotter  in Sweden—in any language they last a long time if stored in an airtight container and the recipe makes about nine dozen cookies!  Sheraton comments that in Pennsylvania Dutch country, this dough (Pefferniss) is allowed to ripen at room temperature for one to  two weeks, after which it is shaped into rolls, chilled and cut  to bake –they can be rolled in powdered sugar while still warm or allowed to cool and iced.

My daughter in law’s favorite Snickerdoodles are in VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS with the comment that the recipe is Pennsylvania Dutch and New England—I wonder if she knows that?

There are molded and shaped cookies, such as Hazelnut Crescents from Northern and Central Europe and Finnish Chestnut Fingers that I am thinking would be fun to make (and why didn’t I collect more chestnuts from the grounds of a place my friend Bev & I visited in Oregon? The ground was littered with fallen Chestnuts; I took about a dozen to bring home with me because they look just like Buckeyes from the Buckeye Tree in Ohio. In Ohio, women keep a buckeye in their handbags for good luck).

There are recipes for Swedish cinnamon Sand cookies which I think I would like to make this year, Baseler Leckerli from Switzerland, the Pennsylvania Dutch Belsnickles (which used to be given to masked revelers—Belsnickles—who went bell ringing from one house to another on Christmas Eve) and Bellylaps, another Pennsylvania Dutch cookies similar to Moravian Brown Sugar Cookies but are a little less brittle and can be used for tree ornaments. But I think I would like to try making Swedish Gingersnaps which should be rolled to paper thinness—or perhaps Moravian Brown Sugar cookies, which also must be rolled paper-thin.  This is just a sampling of the cookie recipes to be found in VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS.

It is listed in Amazon.com for $19.00 (hardcover, new) or 95c for a pre-owned copy. I could not find a listing on Alibris.com

One of my older (1971) cookbooks is HOMEMADE COOKIES by the Food Editors of Farm Journal.  Years ago – in the late 1960s, early 1970s, I think – a penpal began introducing me to Farm Journal cookbooks. These became my tried-and-true recipes of the time. (Every so often I find a copy of this cookbook at the Lancaster Friends library sale – I snap them up to give to friends; the cookbooks are good.) There are hundreds of recipes and they’re all good.  My copy is almost falling apart, it’s been used that much. This one is featured on Amazon.com starting at one cent for a pre-owned copy.

Another favorite cookbook from 1963 is THE ART OF MAKING GOOD COOKIES PLAIN AND FANCY by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney—another one of those can’t-be-beat cookie cookbooks. (This one is featured on Alibris.com for 99c. Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at one cent).

A third favorite is COOKIE COOKERY by John Zenker and Hazel G. Zenker, published in 1969. I found COOKIE COOKERY on Amazon.com, pre-owned copies starting at one cent.

A little treasure of a cookbook that was given to me by a friend is THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BOOK by Virginia Pasley, published in 1949 (I wasn’t collecting cookbooks back then but this is one of those timeless cookbooks written in a friendly chatty style).  Alibris.com doesn’t have this one in stock, but Amazon.com does, starting at $1.32 for a pre-owned copy.

FAVORITE BRAND NAME 100 BEST HOLIDAY COOKIES is nicely designed with hidden wire binding and a lot of color photographs of the cookies. I found this one on Amazon.com new for $2.97 and pre-owned starting at one cent. I have half a dozen post-its sticking out of its pages- the recipes I thought I might like to try this Christmas. (Reminds me of the saying “so many books, so little time” – only I would call it, SO MANY COOKIES, SO LITTLE TIME).

These are a few of my favorite cookbooks – as time permits, I will try to share some of my other favorites with you.  Happy Cookie Baking!!

–Sandra Lee Smith (portions previously posted on sandychatter in 2011)

NO CHRISTMAS COOKIES THIS YEAR!

By the time my first son, Michael, was five and his brother Steve was two, we were living in a rented house in North Hollywood and it was while we were living at that house on Kittridge street that I began collecting cookbooks—and was really into cookie baking by that time. I had acquired a lot of Wilton decorating tips and began learning how to make little flowers, like violets, with royal frosting, to put on cookies. Just before Christmas in 1965, I embarked on a sugar cookie baking marathon. I planned to give cookies to friends as well as coworkers at Weber Aircraft where both Jim and I were employed.  After hundreds of sugar cookies were baked and cooled, I began frosting them, one night, like an assembly-line, covering all the table and counter tops with trays of frosted cookies.  When at last the cookies were all decorated with butter cream frosting, I left them out to dry overnight. I collapsed in bed around 3 am.

The next day, I got up to discover that Michael had eaten the frosting off of every single cookie.  Every – single – cookie.  Needless to say, no one received gift tins of cookies from the Smiths that year.  To add insult to injury, Michael didn’t even get a tummy ache from all that sugar.  So, even though I may not be able to describe the many different cookies I made for most Christmases over the past 50 years..I can certainly tell you the story of the year no one received cookies from us.

In a homemade recipe journal I found in a used book store in the mid-60s, I was impressed with the author’s lists – lists of guests for parties, lists of everything that had been served – and lists of the cookies and confections she cooked and baked to give to friends for the holidays. So, I began keeping lists also. I’ve kept a Christmas notebook for years—it helps me remember who received what so that I don’t give that person the same thing two years in a row.  So for whatever it’s worth- here is a list of my Christmas cookies for 1981:

Chocolate chip

Chocolate cut out

Butter cut out

Mexican wedding cakes

Lebkuchen

Oatmeal ice box

1 dough 8 ways *bon bons

Peanut blossoms

Rum raisins

Butter pecan

Gingerbread boys

Almond icebox slices

Sun giant raisin

Cinnamon stars

Spritz

Truffles, 2 kinds

Sugared almonds

Mint walnuts

Candy pecans

Pralines

Peanut butter balls

Texas fruit cake

Madelines

What this list tells me is that not much has changed in thirty years. Many of these recipes are the same ones I’m still baking! And the mint walnuts became a favorite when my penpal in Oregon sent me small bottles of mint oil, from their mint crop. (although any kind of mint oil will work). Those are really not a “cookie” but what you might call a confection.

There was one other year – possibly the early 70s – when the price of sugar skyrocketed—a 5 lb bag of sugar soared to over $5.00. I may have baked some cookies but am inclined to think I focused on recipes that had molasses or natural sweeteners such as dried fruit.  Fortunately, the price of sugar dropped (maybe no one baked cookies that year) – and even now with sugar sold in 4 lb bags instead of 5 lbs, the price roughly $2.50 a bag, give or take depending on who has on sale—but there are ways to getting around the price of sugar – such as using cake mixes (bought when on sale) to make cookies with just the addition of eggs and maybe one or two other ingredients—but no added sugar. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful.

–Sandra Lee Smith

 

 

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM

Christmas on the Farm, edited by Lela Nargi, is a collection of favorite recipes, stories, gift ideas and decorating tips from The Farmer’s Wife. First published in 2011 by Voyageur Press, it is a beautiful hardbound book to add to your favorite Christmas collection.

In the Introduction, Lela Nargi writes “The Farmer’s Wife (which is enjoying a resurgence of popularity for the past few years—Nargi has been publishing a number of “Farmer’s Wife” cookbooks, all available to check over on Amazon.com)– was originally a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between the years 1893 and 1939. In an era long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, the magazine aimed to offer community among hard-working rural women, to provide a forum for their questions and concerns, and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm—everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs, to managing scant funds and dressing the children, to keeping house and running the kitchen.”

“Christmas was the be-all, end-all celebration on the farm—more than Easter, New Year’s or even Thanksgiving,” she writes. “This quintessential holiday of giving and togetherness gave rise to pages and pages on the topic in every December issue of the magazine. And these pages weren’t just about food—although recipes for all the various components of dinners and parties and holiday gift baskets certainly abounded. The magazine’s experts expounded on the best and latest ways to decorate home, tree, and parcels. Its monthly columnists devoted themselves to the matters of home-made gifts for family and friends, and games to be played to festively capture the spirit of the season. Its readers wrote in with tales of Christmases in other lands, in times gone by. Its editors rhapsodized in and out of two wars, on the value of peace and compassion.”

“In short,” Lela explains, “The Farmer’s Wife” presented its own opinion—both grand and humble, broad and minute, and always, always bearing in mind the idea of community among its readers—about the ways in which Christmas should be celebrated…”

CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM presents, with nostalgia, a way of life that has to a certain degree disappeared from the American landscape and lifestyle. The book starts off with the Christmas, 1920 issue of the magazine (you’d have to be a mentally alert ninety-three year old citizen to remember that decade);

Lela writes, “To those who live in the land of snow and Christmas trees, the twenty-fifth of December blends all its associations with the gleam of snow on hills and fields and woods, the fragrance of fir and pine, the leaping light of Christmas hearthfires. But Christmas is a world-wide day and the environment determined by climate is but an external.

They tell us, too, that ‘Christmas on the Farm’ is the only ideal Christmas. The Farmer’s Wife carries its Christmas message into all zones, from Florida, to the frozen North and from its own home in the corn belt to the edges of the continent where the oceans roar out their accompaniment to the carols of the good, glad day. It is a message of love, and faith and cheer as befits a Christmas message of love, because love is always the winner of faith, because without that staunch quality, nothing would ever be accomplished, of cheer, because when we have love and faith, the flame of cheer follows as a  matter of course—as light follows the burning torch….”

I may have been born in the wrong period of time—as I read and typed the above, it crosses my mind that this message would be “politically incorrect” in the world we live in today. You can’t even say “Merry Christmas” – you have to say “Happy Holidays”—and let me say that I say MERRY CHRISTMAS at every opportunity in December. But I digress.

Curiously, in 2010, I wrote a series of poems for a poetry group I belonged to, under the umbrella heading of “An American Childhood” and I will share one of these poems with you. Mine were written before CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM was published, so I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes.

Christmas Dinner in 1929 presented its readers with an illustration of the proper way to set your table and follows with an assortment of beverages to serve your guests—from Fruit Punch taken from the January 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife to a Cranberry Cocktail from the 1934 issue and including a November 1937 recipe for Cranberry Gingerale Cocktail. To go along with the drinks are an assortment of hors d’oeuvres starting with Candied Nuts from the January, 1913 issue of The Farmer’s Wife but includes recipes for a relish plate (November, 1934) to a Cheese and Cracker Tray (also from the November, 1934 issue (in recognition, perhaps, for readers who might not know where to begin with cheese and crackers or preparing a relish plate) but offers as well a recipe for Cheese Puffs ((July, 1922) or pinwheel cheese biscuits (October 1926)—or, to my amusement, a 1919 Pigs in Blankets recipe…a recipe that is updated and still around 94 years later (think: Pillsbury crescent rolls and hot dogs cut into smaller sizes to fit the dough)—it makes me wonder if the Pillsbury Crescent rolls with hot dogs was a Bake-Off recipe way back when! There are also several recipes for oyster hors d’oeuvres which at one time were enormously popular—not so much today.

What follows next is a selection titled Table Talk, which presents inexpensive recipes for Yuletide Dishes; Main Courses featuring roast goose roast duck and turkey recipes, an impressive chart of all the correct dishes to serve with your selection of a holiday bird makes it easy for the cook to plan the entire meal easily. There are recipes for baked spiced ham, crown roast of lamb—even a curried rabbit (not my favorite meat but certainly had to be a familiar sight on the farmland table, especially during hard times. Under a chapter titled Smorgasbord, taken from the December, 1937 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, is a recipe for meat balls for your smorgasbord, followed by many still great side dishes, from a French Dressing for salad (October, 1911 issue of the Farmer’s Wife)—over a hundred years ago—as well as a Sweet Cream dressing for salad published in 1934, and red dressing for head (Iceberg) lettuce from November, 1924—but all of the salad recipes would be doable today, most for a fraction of the cost, considering that most of the recipes in Christmas on the Farm cover decades of the Great Depression plus two world wars. –the exception might be a recipe for Lobster salad—but it might interest you to know that lobster and other shell fish were affordable throughout World War II. And these were items that were not rationed during the war. And, most of the vegetable and salad recipes were made up of items grown on the farm—Glazed Carrots from the January 1931 issue of the Farmer’s Wife, Creamed Spinach from the May, 1911 issue. These are just a sampling of the recipes found in Christmas on the Farm.

The Desserts found in Christmas on the Farm are mostly simple, inexpensive such as January, 1910’s Lemon Floating Island or November, 1926’s Chocolate Blanc Mange I, a Prune Souffle fro October, 1923 or a Prune and Raisin Pudding from November, 1926, Apricot Whip from February, 1919 or a January 1911 Cranberry Pudding. Still under Desserts is an interesting story  from 1937 titled “She Sells Fruitcake”, a story that began fifteen years earlier with a  young housewife who built a career empire making and selling fruitcakes. There are recipes for fruitcakes and its cousin the Steamed Pudding plus an Eggless Fruit Cake that was made up mostly of spices, raisins and coconut—certainly a welcomed recipe in January of 1913. You’ll also enjoy reading “A Farm Woman’s Christmas Cakes” which appeared in the December, 1925 issue of the Farmer’s Wife.  There are also recipes for candy and cookies, too—candy recipes that are still popular today—toffee and fudge, creamed walnuts and maple pralines from December, 1916—plus many more.

For the farmer’s wife with little cash resources, there are oodles of directions for gifts she could make—even directions for building “Dolly a House” that was published in December, 1921. There are also directions for making many other gifts, however.

By the way, you will love the 20s,-30s,40s illustrations throughout the book. It’s really like stepping back in time with CHRISTMAS ON THE FARM.  Who among all of us would have kept the monthly magazines published throughout those decades? (Apparently, someone did!)

Christmas on the Farm is a beautiful holiday book with a most attractive red cover and is sure to please anyone who buys a copy.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy from my penpal, Betsy, in Michigan—but I checked with Amazon.com; they have several paperback copies starting at $11.98 but listing a new PB copy for $15.27.   Alibris.com has copies starting at $11.98.  If you can get one of the hardbound copies, go for it – it will hold up to years of thumbing through to find your favorite recipes or new ones for you to try.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these recipes this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, 2013!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

As promised, the following is one of my 2010 poems from a collection I called “An American Childhood”.

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

By Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,

Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,

Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,

To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

 

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,

Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.

Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,

Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,

She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.

We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,

And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

 

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune

Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,

For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”

And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

 

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!

We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;

On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,

And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

 

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,

The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;

My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.

I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

 

You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,

When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right. 

On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,

George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

 

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,

As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,

Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,

And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

 

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,

Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,

She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,

And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

 

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,

But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;

He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,

No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

 

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,

We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,

Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get

A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

 

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright

And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”

George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;

As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

 

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,

There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”

And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;

George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

 

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;

George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,

But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!

Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

 

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,

That we all remember this night all our living days.”

And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,

Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

 

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,

Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”

And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,

That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

 

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,

Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see

That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,

“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

 

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,

And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,

Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,

“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

 

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,

I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,

How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”

Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”
George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;

Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,

For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,

And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

 

REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTMAS COOKIES

When did this all begin?  Good question! I don’t remember my mother baking Christmas cookies and my grandmother’s cookies, I recall, were always diamond shaped butter cutout cookies, onto which she brushed egg white and then dusted them with blended sugar and finely chopped walnuts. My sister Becky corrected me and insisted that Grandma made many different kinds of cookies such as Lebkuchen and Spritz, Holiday Fruit cookies, Pfefferneusse (pepper nuts) or Springerle (which requires a special rolling pin or a board with designs imprinted on it). Becky said each family received a dress box full of Grandma’s cookies. Why don’t I remember this?

Grandma was from Germany, Grandpa from Hungary, so her baking was generally European—we grew up on a lot of strudel, often made with apples from her back yard. She also made doughnuts (especially for the Feast of the Three Kings, when we would find a coin in our doughnut)—but for the life of me I can’t remember anything except those diamond shaped cookies. I have her cookie cutter today—that and a small heart shaped cutter.

I got married December 6th in 1958 and don’t have any memory of making cookies that first Christmas, although I did begin to search for recipes. I clipped some holiday baking ideas out of December women’s magazines and searched through a Betty Crocker Picture cookbook that was a wedding present.  I think it highly unlikely that I would have attempted any cut-out cookies that first Christmas as a newlywed (did I even having a rolling pin?) but I might have made drop cookies, such as chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, cookies I was already familiar with.  In addition to the Becky Crocker Picture Cookbook, I had a Meta Given cookbook that had been my mother’s.  As I think back on that first Christmas, I don’t know if I even had baking equipment – cookie sheets or baking pans. It had been a very small wedding.

My first child was born in September, 1960 and I probably began baking cookies when he was a toddler.  What stands out most in my memory is that we had a wonderful big yellow stove that was popular in the 1920s. What wouldn’t I give to have that old stove today! (it was left behind when we moved to California in 1961).

What I do remember, quite well, is the Christmas of 1963. By this time my son Steve had been born and we drove across country to California a few weeks before Christmas, to avoid a heavy storm heading for the Midwest. We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and friends came over on Christmas Eve to celebrate with homemade cookies and coffee. We didn’t have any furniture yet so everyone sat on the floor. Guests went home with bags of cookies – so sometime between 1958 and 1963 I did learn something about baking. We bought a small tree and some small toys for our two little boys. You don’t need much to celebrate Christmas. Cookies help!

–Sandra Lee Smith

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE COOKBOOKS

The first cookbook I want to bring to your attention is THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, which features the best single recipes from each year in Gourmet magazine, from 1941 to 2009. The book was published by Conde Nast Publications in 2010 and is offered by Amazon.com with a wide range of price variations – if I remember correctly, I might have bought my copy about a year ago and I didn’t pay very much for the book – and probably got free shipping as I go for free shipping whenever possible.

Gourmet magazine’s demise also was a factor—since we won’t be reading the magazine anymore, it seemed logical to me to read whatever books are published under Gourmet’s umbrella.

In acknowledgements, we learn something about the birth of the Gourmet Cookie Cookbook—that it took a few people who were relatively new to Gourmet to realize what an extraordinary resource* (italics mine) the editors had. Several editors came up with the idea of featuring the best cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s existence.

They tell us “It was not until executive food editor Kemp Minifie began trolling through the archives that we really understood that this was more than a fabulous collection of cookies; it also told a very American story.  It was no accident that every one of us found excuses to spend time in the kitchen while test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau—who threw herself boy and soul, into baking the cookies—was immersed in the project. These cookies were not only delicious; they are also a fascinating window into history that none of us wanted to miss..”

And as wonderful as the cookies were all by themselves, the editors say, “it took the passion and inspiration of creative director Richard Ferretti, associate art director   Kevin DeMaria, and photographer  Romulo Yanes to make them dance. Their vision has made this book a delight to look at…”

They also confess that in the end, the book would not have been possible without Gourmet’s devoted readers, who sent their cookies, their recipes, and their comments, for so many years.  “This book belongs to you,” they conclude, “and we thank you for it.”

For those of us who cannot cook or bake without a visual idea of what the cookie (or cake, dessert, appetizer or prime rib dinner) should look like—the table of contents will make you swoon. There is a delightful photograph of each year’s chosen winner, starting with 1941.

*I often muse longingly on that extraordinary resource buried – wherever the Gourmet magazines and accompanying research material are now stored, while wondering what editor Ruth Reichl is doing now. I was a subscriber for many years – then let my subscription lapse – because I didn’t feel that the magazine spoke to me any more. When Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet’s editorial staff – I re-subscribed – in part because I cherish and love her books, in part –because whenever she writes something, I feel like she is speaking to me. That is, I think, a gift—and one I try to impart on the readers and subscribers to my blog, Sandychatter. When someone writes to me and tells me I am speaking to them – I feel that I have learned something precious from Ruth Reichl – as well as the other cookbook authors  whose work I admire – Marion Cunningham, M.F.K. Fisher, and Jean Anderson, to name a few.

In the Introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book, the editors tell us “Buy a cookie, and it’s just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they’re done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavor of home. for anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.

Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts. Not for nothing do we pack up our cookies and send them off to our far flung families. Like little ambassadors of good will, these morsels stand in for us. There are few people who don’t understand, at least subconsciously, how much a cookie can mean…”

But until the Gourmet editors began to work on THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK, it had never occurred to them to look at history through a cookie prism. When they decided to select the best cookie from each of Gourmet’s sixty-eight years and became captivated, not surprisingly, by the language of cookies, so they printed the recipes as they originally appeared. In the early years, they write, the recipes were remarkably casual—as anyone who has collected cookbooks for decades would know.  (Church and club recipes from decades ago were especially casual). Write the editors “[it was a kind of] mysterious shorthand that assumes every reader was an accomplished cook who needed little in the way of guidance…”  “Bake in a moderate oven until crisp” is a classic instruction, they tell us.  They thought it interesting to watch as numbers crept into the recipes in the form of degrees, minutes and cups…”

[if I am not mistaken, it was Fannie Farmer who standardized recipes with measurements back in the day when she had a cooking school].

Following the Introduction, one of the most interesting I have ever read, there are two pages of Recipe Tips, with good suggestions—some that even I didn’t know.

The first chapter is the 1940s,  in which the editors write, “1941 was an unlikely time to laundry an epicurean magazine. War was looming along with the possibility of food rationing, but Gourmet’s founder. Earle MacAusland, convinced that soldiers who had spent time in Europe and Asia would be loath to come back to meat loaf, saw an opportunity.  Little wonder that Gourmet, published from a penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, concentrated on sophisticated fare. Cookies did not figure into the equation and the few recipes that the magazine published leaned towards old-fashioned American classics like wafers and sugar crisps, with a couple of European treats…”

Check out “Cajun Macaroons”, a crisp, chewy little cookie introduced in an early 1941 issue in which we also discover that Louis P. DeGouy became Gourmet’s Chef.  (I wrote about Chef DeGouy in Sandychatter – he was chef at the Waldorf Astoria for 30 years and was one of the founders of GOURMET magazine; see TRACING THE LIFE OF LOUIS P. DE GOUY posted in april, 2011 Sandychatter blog post. I am frequently nonplussed by the number of famous cooks/chefs/cookbook authors who—although prominent in their day—have all but disappeared from our culinary landscape – sls)

The next featured cookie is an icebox treat—the war was on and sugar was rationed. Actually, it was the first item to be rationed.  Wanting to do its patriotic bit, Gourmet magazine printed an article showing readers how to use honey in place of sugar. [Although one reason sugar was rationed was due to it being made in Hawaii—which, as we know, was bombed in Pearl Harbor at the onset of World War II, but it was also an ingredient used in making gun powder!  I discovered this when doing research of an article of mine, called HARD TIMES).

Gourmet provides us with a cookie called Honey Refrigerator Cookies which does contain a small amount of brown sugar but also contains half a cup of Honey.  This is followed by a recipe called Scotch Oat Crunchies; Gourmet Magazine and everybody else were trying various recipes using oatmeal and this recipe, which produces a small round cookie that you pair up with your choice of filling – dates, raisins, figs or whatever.  I think I will have to make a batch of these. They sound wonderful and I’m speculating that they would travel well if you send cookies to relatives or a favorite serviceman or woman. Another good traveler, advises Gourmet, is a cookie called Cinnamon Sugar Crisps, from Gourmet’s entire column called “Cookie Jar”.

The first postwar cookie to appear in Gourmet is one called Date Bars. Write the editors, “The recipe appeared in one of the many articles about Katish, a remarkable Russian cook who had many fans including M.F.K. Fisher who comments “I think I have copied every one of her recipes as they’ve appeared…”—and OMG, now I have discovered yet another great cook who appears in one of the Modern Library Food books published by Ruth Reichl in 2001 and containing an introduction from Marion Cunningham. The book was originally published in 1947, written by Wanda Frolov, under the title, “KATISH, OUR RUSSIAN COOK”—just another author I have never heard of before.

The next recipe that I am charmed with, this from December 1946 is Moravian White Christmas cookies, which I can’t wait to try.

If you only buy one more Christmas cookie cookbook in your life, check out THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK which is available on Amazon.com but be forewarned – when you type in this book title, Amazon will present it with many other cookie cookbooks that you may find irresistible.  It is also available on Alibris.com for as little as $2.43 for a new copy.

Ok, I’m ready to start mixing Christmas cookie dough!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith