SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS-PART 7, OJAKANGAS & ROMBAUER

Originally posted 1/2012

Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Holiday Baking Book (copyright 1994, Clarkson/Potter Publishers) is a good addition to your Christmas cookbook collection even though this cookbook encompasses not just the Christmas season but special holidays throughout the year. Actually, I don’t keep it with my Christmas cookbooks; I have it filed with my Breads/Pastries cookbooks.

Beatrice’s interest in cooking began as a 12-year-old member of 4-H when she started winning state and national awards for cooking demonstrations (Confirming Catherine Hanley’s comments in Blue Ribbon Winners, recently reviewed on this blog).

In 1957, a young Beatrice won the Second Grand Prize for the Pillsbury Bake Off. (taking a page from Jean Anderson’s book, I decided not to take everything I read at face value, and since I have a complete collection of the Bake Off Books I went in search of the 1957 Bake Off Book. It’s the 9th Grand National Cook Book where I found Beatrice’s recipe for Chunk O’ Cheese Bread with a photograph of a very young Mrs. Ojakangas! Alongside the photograph she is quoted as saying that the money she won ($5,000) would come in handy to further her husband’s career. I can’t help but wonder – what about her career? Certainly being a grand prize winner at one of the early Pillsbury Bake Off contests was a boost in the right direction!)

Beatrice Ojakangas began her writing career as a food editor for Sunset Magazine. Since then she has written numerous articles for national magazines including Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Redbook, Cooking Light, Country Living, Southern Living, Eating Well, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Cooking Pleasures. She has been a regular columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune.

But getting back to GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK, from the publishers we learn “No holiday would be complete without the wonderful baked goods that make every occasion special. Now Beatrice Ojakangas, one of America’s best loved bakers, presents more than 250 recipes in this comprehensive classic cookbook.

BEATRICE OJAKANGAS’ GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK takes you from spring to winter with 21 cherished holidays and the favorite baked treats that make them memorable…”
The author explains, “…when I reflect on my history of holiday baking, I feel very grateful for my simple Finnish heritage based on immigrant cuisine. Holidays didn’t have to be ten thousand things on the table. One or two specialties were enough. Usually there was a bread but often there were cookies and maybe a cake, too. At Christmastime we baked Pulla, perhaps a Swedish Tea Ring or Finnish Prune Tarts, and some butter cookies. Around Easter, there was always a symbolic braided bread wreath with eggs and a seasonal sweet, such as a strawberry pie…”

Ms. Ojakangas goes on to explain that, as she grew up, she met people who weren’t Finish or Scandinavian but had specialties for holidays, and she began to collect cakes, pastries, bread and cookie recipes. She says that she loves the fact that whatever your heritage, whatever the occasion, there are a multitude of baked goods, either traditional or innovative, that make the holiday memorable and special.
The author says that, when she began writing this cookbook, she thought it would be a snap, since her files were bulging with recipes from classes she had taught, parties she’d had, articles she had written—but the more she dug in, the more recipes she found that she felt couldn’t left out—but finally, she called it quits at 250 recipes. And these 250 recipes are all “winners”.

Starting with an Irish Beer Bread to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on March 17, this book traverses through the calendar year, presenting specialties for many special holidays, from Passover to Easter, from Memorial Day to Fourth of July, from Labor Day to Rosh Hashanah and from Halloween to Thanksgiving, to Christmas and Hanukkah all the way to New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.

This is an “all baking” book that is sure to become one of your all-time favorites, filled with wonderful recipes and lots of tips and suggestions. There are also brief explanations of each holiday.

Beatrice Ojakangas has written more than twenty cookbooks—my curiosity was piqued so I began searching and writing down titles which I will list at the end of this article.
I have been so enchanted with this cookbook and have many pages marked with little post-it notes.

Amazon.com has BEATRICE OJAKANGAS’ GREAT HOLIDAY BAKING BOOK priced at $9.99 for a new copy or starting at ten cents for pre-owned (add $3.99 for shipping and handling). Alibris.com has copies starting at 99c for pre-owned or $12.50 for a new hard-bound copy.

I found the following titles while doing several searches:

A Finnish Cookbook 1964 (38 printings!)
Convection Oven Cook Book 1980
The Best of the Liberated Cook, 1981
Country Tastes: Best Recipes from America’s Kitchens, 1988
Best of Pancake and Waffle Recipes, 1990
Quick Bead, 1991
Best of Wild Rice, 1992
Pot Pies, 1993
Great Holiday Baking Book 1994
The Book of Heartland Cooking, 1994
Light and Easy Baking, 1996
Fantastically Finnish: Recipes and Traditions, 1998
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, 1999
Scandinavian Feasts, 2001
Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand, 2004
Great Old Fashioned American Desserts, 2004
Great Old Fashioned American Recipes, 2005
The Best Casserole Cook Book Ever 500 recipes, 2008
Petite Sweets, 2009
American Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cook Book 2010
The Soup & Bread Cookbook, 2013

I don’t have publishing dates for the following:
Best of Gourmet Recipes for Two
Best of Honey Recipes
Light Desserts
****

BUNNY’S JOY
Originally posted 5/3/13

My brother Jim and Bunny (Ursula) Walker married in 1963 and embarked on a marriage that lasted for 49 years, producing two daughters and one son—and in time, five grandsons. My BF Bob and Bunny were kindred spirits and would sit outside smoking together whenever they visited me, or when we all gathered in Florida. Is it any wonder that they were both felled by the same disease, cancer of the esophagus? And that they died within eleven months of each other?

The first time I saw my sister in law, Bunny’s, copy of JOY OF COOKING by Irma Rombauer was during a visit to Michigan in 1994, along with my sister Becky, to witness the marriage of Bunny and Jim’s son Barry, to Kelli; and a few days later we participated in Jim and Bunny’s youngest daughter, Julie’s, high school graduation—and a memorable party for which my sister and I participated in making chocolate-covered large fresh strawberries.

One day during that visit, Bunny made cream of asparagus soup for us—asparagus was in season and we all liked this vegetable. Bunny consulted her “JOY OF COOKING” cookbook for the recipe and I was enthralled, seeing such an old copy of a famous cookbook. This edition was published in 1963, and in the Dedication page, Marion Rombauer Becker writes “In revisiting and reorganizing ‘The Joy of Cooking’ we have missed the help of my mother, Irma S. Rombauer. How grateful I am for her buoyant example, for the strong feeling of roots she gave me, for her conviction that, well-grounded, you can make the most of life, no matter what it brings! In an earlier away-from-home kitchen, I acted as tester and production manager for the privately printed first edition of ‘The Joy’. Working with Mother on its development has been for my husband, John, and for me the culmination of a very happy personal relationship. John has always contributed verve to this undertaking, but during the past ten years he has, through his constant support and crisp creative editing, become an integral part of the book. We look forward to a time when our two boys—and their wives—will continue to keep ‘The Joy’ a family affair, as well as an enterprise in which the authors owe no obligation to anyone but themselves—and you.” – Marion Rombauer Becker

Could the Rombauer clan ever imagined – even after ten years of THE JOY OF COOKING being published, that it would continue, year after year, to exceed everyone’s greatest expectations?

I am a Johnny-come-lately to “The Joy of Cooking” – even though I began collecting cookbooks in 1965, my focus was then and still is today on community cookbooks. although I have branched out a bit. Sitting down with Bunny’s worn, stained, cover-falling-off copy of THE JOY OF COOKING was a revelation to me. Part of the original dust jacket was folded up inside. Also folded up neatly inside are a package of typed recipes – chili parlor chili, Skyline Chili, Beef Bar-B-Q, Hungarian Goulash, as well as perhaps a dozen or more other family favorites that cry out “Cincinnati”. There is a copy of a recipe for Skyline Chili in a handwriting that I don’t recognize. For those not familiar with Cincinnati Chili, Camp Washington Chili Parlor, Skyline Chili, Empress Chili – they are all variations of a particular chili dinner that all Cincinnati children grow up with—we were weaned on 4 way or 5 way chili or a couple of Coney Islands. A four way is spaghetti, topped with Cincinnati Chili, a mountain of grated cheese and oyster crackers. For a 5-way add a serving of kidney beans to the dish. Coney Islands are Cincinnati’s version of a chili dog – but the specially made small hot dog comes from Kahn’s – “the weiner the world awaited”- and is topped off with mustard, chili, some chopped onion and a huge mound of grated cheese—all piled onto a hotdog bun. I can eat three of these in one sitting but can’t budge for a few hours after.

Another clipping inside the book is a seasoning for fish, chicken or steak, in my brother Jim’s handwriting. Next I found an intriguing recipe for Blackberry Brioche that was clipped from a newspaper –and I can’t wait to share it with my penpal Bev, who keeps me supplied with Oregon blackberries. This is followed by a small little stack of newspaper clippings—the kind you only find in old recipe boxes or packed within the pages of a family cookbook. There is, I was happy to see, an article from my favorite food writer, Fern Storer, for a Lemon Pound Cake; next is a recipe for a ham loaf – an old clipping; the back of the recipe is an ad for 6 large 12-oz bottles of Pepsi Cola for 15 cents (plus deposit). I found a recipe for making a Swiss Steak Sauce that was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1960. Then I found a recipe for Chipped Beef Skillet Lunch that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer in October, 1958—(oh wait! I thought – Jim & Bunny didn’t get married until 1963. Were these recipes originally in her mother’s possession? Was the cookbook originally her mother’s? who can I ask? Who would know?)

From a Cincinnati Enquirer clipping dated January 21, 1960. I found a recipe for Casserole Lasagna, that I am interested in trying; then I uncovered a recipe for Broken Glass Torte (made with three kinds of Jello) followed by small clippings for Banana Nut Bread, a Tangy Dressing for Tangy vegetable slaw, plus a few others that are too battered to decipher.

On a page somewhat spattered, I found Bunny’s recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup:

Wash and remove the tips from 1 lb fresh green asparagus, simmer the tips, covered until they are tender in a small amount of milk or water.
Cut the stalks into pieces and place them in a saucepan. Add
6 cups of veal or chicken stock page 490
¼ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
Simmer these ingredients, covered, for about ½ hour rub them through a sieve.
Melt:
3 Tablespoons butter
Stir in until blended
3 Tablespoons flour
Stir in slowly:
½ cup cream

Add the asparagus stock. Heat the soup well in a double boiler. Add the asparagus tips. Season the soup immediately before serving with salt, paprika, and white pepper. Before serving, garnish with:
A diced hard-cooked egg **

I imagine that a bookstore dealer would toss Bunny’s Joy of Cooking into the trash, considering it unworthy of resale. I think much the same often happens to an individual’s recipe box – the contents are thrown into the trash and the box is put up for sale.

I don’t pretend that I am the owner of Bunny’s Joy. I think of myself as a steward, waiting for a daughter or a grandchild to come along and ask “Do you know where my mother’s or grandmother’s Joy of Cooking is?” to which I can reply “I’ve been saving it for you”.

Sandra’s Cooknote—Bunny’s copy of JOY was returned to one of my nieces. Since then I have acquired perhaps half a dozen old copies of Joy of Cooking. What I find mysterious and compelling is that Irma Rombauer had one cookbook “in” her and that her Joy of Cooking is still immensely popular ever since. It sort of reminded me how often an aspiring author has “only” one novel in them—such as Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND that became a bestseller and an enormously popular film. Just saying….

–Sandra Lee Smith

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One response to “SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS-PART 7, OJAKANGAS & ROMBAUER

  1. Sandy, Please keep writing!

    I live in Montevideo, Uruguay, and LOVE you chatter email…warm regards, Jay

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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