Category Archives: COOKBOOK REVIEWS

ACKNOWLEDGING MICHIGAN FRIENDS & KINFOLK – A FEW OF THEIR COOKBOOKS

When I started collecting cookbooks in 1965, I really didn’t know where to begin, aside from making frequent visits to used book stores. I didn’t know a thing about collecting cookbooks—but I had a 1961 Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker and I thought there must be more like this, “out there somewhere”.

I wrote a letter to Tower Press’ Women’s Circle magazine in 1965 (a magazine for penpals) and mentioned being interested in buying, or trading for church or club cookbooks. Over 200 women responded to my request and I was kept busy for several months, buying cookbooks sight unseen or trading things like S&H Green Stamps – or whatever else the writer wanted. Many of those first cookbooks were remarkably good finds.

The best thing about that letter in Women’s Circle in 1965 was a letter from a woman in Michigan. She was a cookbook collector and she helped me find cookbooks; we became – and remained – friends; our children grew up, married, had children of their own. I went through a divorce and my Michigan friend lost her husband. A few months ago, she began downsizing to move into a smaller place, and has sent me boxes of books – not just cookbooks but other books as well, books about lighthouses (another pet interest of mine) and books about survivors of WW2. My cup runneth over.

After giving this a great deal of reflection, I thought that the best way I can show my appreciation for all that she has given to me – is by writing about some of these books.
I’m not sure whether I have more California church and club cookbooks or more if those from Michigan. The problem with counting the Michigan cookbooks is that they aren’t all in the same place – two of my largest bookcases are divided up as “east of the Mississippi” and “west of the Mississippi”. I know, probably sounds dumb but it SEEMED like a fairly good idea when I first came up with it. I have kept all of my California cookbooks together – currently they fill two bookcases in my bedroom and are double-rowed.

Sometimes I have to take everything off the shelves to find a particular book. Before we moved to this house in 2008, I was in a much larger house and had the California cookbooks divided into two parts – Northern California and Southern California. Now they are all mixed up. (One of these days I’ll get them sorted again).

In a bookcase in our spare bedroom, I have all the southern cookbooks filling up two bookcases on one wall and on the other wall, I have all of my Ohio cookbooks (separate from East of the Mississippi) because I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a separate collection of cookbooks from Cincinnati. Then I began putting the Michigan cookbooks on a shelf underneath the Ohio ones (although technically speaking, Michigan is ABOVE Ohio, not below it) – sometimes the sizes of books has a lot to do with how you file them on your shelves.

Well, as you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. Since I first posted “Battered, Tattered, Stained church and club cookbooks”, I have been going through a lot of my books trying to determine which ones would generate the most interest. Then I thought it would be nice to have a discussion on California cookbooks since they are one of my favorites. (The other favorite are my Cincinnati club and church cookbooks.)

But before I do that, I think I owe it to my friend Betsy to tell you about some of the Michigan cookbooks. In addition to having had a Michigan penpal for over 45 years, I also have a brother who lived in Michigan for several decades, and two of his offspring have chosen to remain in the Wolverine State.

I visited Betsy twice in the 1970s – thanks to her kindhearted husband who drove several hundred miles to Cincinnati to take me and my children to Michigan to spend a week with them-one of the most delightful experiences, back then, was going to the flea markets where you would find all sorts of old cookbooks, often priced for as little as ten cents each. But, my brother and his wife hosted a family reunion there one year, and I have made perhaps half a dozen trips to Michigan over the years; twice to visit my mother who was in a nursing home in Grand Rapids, once for my goddaughter’s high school graduation, once for my sister Becky and I to drive around Lake Michigan, searching for Light Houses. Whenever I am in Michigan, I want to find the book stores.

The year that my niece Julie was graduating from high school, her sister Leslie drove me to Ann Arbor – where Leslie had gone to college – and we had a wonderful afternoon searching out used book stores as well as the ones selling new books – particularly cookbooks.

One of the cookbooks I bought that year, 1994, was “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” published by the Ronald McDonald House with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. This is a thick spiral-bound cookbook with over 700 prized recipes. You may find yourself reading recipes for days but one I found outstanding is named “Sue’s Cheerios Snack”. Considered a great snack for tailgate parties, this is easy to make and would be a great snack for the kiddies too:

Pam cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick solid type margarine or butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 cups cheerios* cereal
1 cup Spanish peanuts
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 9×13” pan with Pam. Combine Cheerios, peanuts and raisins in pan. In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt until bubbly around the edges. Cook 2 minutes more (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda . Pour over cereal mixture. Mix well. Bake 20 minutes. Turn immediately onto wax paper. Let Cool.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: When “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” was published in 1994, we only had the one kind of Cheerios. I have been thinking this would be great to try with the chocolate Cheerios or the cinnamon flavored version. Bon Appétit!

At the time I posted this article in 2011, I did some checking on Amazon.com—you can buy Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II for as little as 59 cents (plus will be charged $3.99 shipping & handling from private vendors; they are also listing 2 new copies for $9.49. There are numerous other listings you can find on Google for this cookbook. I have been unable to verify whether or not you can still order copies from the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor. Maybe someone will know and enlighten me. **

One of my favorite Michigan cookbooks was not published by a church, club or any other organization –but it’s such a keeper, it deserves a spot on this post. The title of the cookbook is “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” by Larry B. Massie and Priscilla Massie.

From “Watermelon Pickles and Watermelon Cake we learn that “The Massies are a husband and wife team specializing in Michigan history. Larry co-authored with Peter Schmitt “KALAMAZOO: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS” and “BATTLE CREEK: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS.” His other publications include “FROM FRONTIER FOLK TO FACTORY SMOKE” “MICHIGANS FIRST CENTURY OF HISTORICAL FICTION”, “VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” “COPPER TRAILS AND IRON RAILS”, “MORE VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” and “WARM FRIENDS AND WODE SHOES: A PICTORAL HISTORY OF THE HOLLAND AREA.”

Priscilla was born in Kalamazoo in 1955 and traces her Michigan ancestry to Michel Campau, one of the one hundred Frenchmen who founded Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Priscilla’s research, photographic, word processing and culinary skills allow the Massies to participate in a wide range of Michigan history projects…” What wouldn’t I give to visit that century old schoolhouse and see the Massies collections!

I don‘t know HOW many times I’ve reached for this book to check some piece of information–It’s been a favorite reference book for many years. Subtitled “A CENTURY OF MICHIGAN COOKING”, this hard-cover with a spill-resistant cover was published in 1990 by Wayne State University Press in Detroit. And what the two Massies have done is provided recipes from church and club cookbooks dating back in some instances prior to 1900. The book is generously laced with drawings or illustrations of old-timey kitchen utensils – but one of my favorite features, I admit it freely, was the number of rhymed recipes including one my oldest finds for The Kitchen Poets, “Eve’s Pudding” dating from Detroit in 1878. One I will spare directions for is Perfect Mock Turtle Soup that starts out “Get a calf’s head with the skin on (the fresher the better) and before you say ew, ew, I want to add that an authentic MOCK turtle soup was commonly made with a calf’s head when real turtle was unavailable.

In the introduction, the Massies explain how their interest in old books was cultivated and grew from very early ages. They married and moved into an old one-room schoolhouse located in the midst of the Allegan State Forest. “Crowded within the main part of the structure is our collection of thirty thousand books, thirteen-foot high bookshelves surround all sides of a vast room. More shelves in the center of the room support a loft where Larry studies and writes about Michigan history…”

Priscilla has an attached room with a “Hoosier” cabinet (I had one when I was first married and didn’t have the sense to keep it before we moved to California); her kitchen cabinet was built in 1910 and is flanked on one side by a GE “monitor top” refrigerator made in 1932 and on the other, an electric range of similar vintage. They love history so much that they have surrounded themselves with period household furnishings.

Priscilla has antique kitchen utensils, cast-iron Griswold pots and pans and other domestic artifacts hang everywhere. The Massies have fulfilled the dictate to write about what you know the most about. More than thirteen hundred recipes from Michigan’s past are in this volume, dating from 1820s through the end of WW2.

“Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake” contains SO many recipes – and I think I copied most of the rhymed recipes when I was compiling the Kitchen Poets.

I have gone through this cookbook over and over, trying to decide which recipe to feature. I chose “Pickled Grapes” because I have seen pickled grape recipes featured on websites and blogs recently – as though a brand-new recipe. I made up a batch and it WAS new to me – but “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon cake have it dated 1899 by a Mrs. McCall in Kalamazoo!

To make Pickled Grapes:

Take grapes fresh from the stems without breaking and put them in a jar. For 7 pounds of grapes, take one quart vinegar, 3 pounds of sugar*, 1 TBSP whole cloves and the same of cinnamon bark. Boil it all together a few minutes, then let it cool until you can bear your finger in it; pour over the grapes, turn a plate over them; set them in a cool cellar and they are done. Do not cook the grapes nor heat the pickle over. If properly prepared they will keep a year and be as plump and fresh as when picked from the vines.

Well, I don’t have a cellar, and here in the high desert it can be a problem finding a spot cool enough. When I made sauerkraut about a year ago, we kept the crock in the coolest section of our garage which is in Bob’s workshop (attached behind the garage) and that worked – but I was making the kraut in March when it’s still relatively cool in the Antelope Valley.

If you want to make the pickled grapes you can keep them very well if you have a cellar or basement. If not, make them while the weather is still fairly cool.

*Sandy’s cooknote: 2 cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound, so you would need 6 cups of sugar to equal 3 pounds. 4 cups of vinegar equals one quart.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake”, the best prices I have found are on Amazon.com. They have pre-owned copies starting under $29.81 (higher than the prices I found listed in 2011)

Another good Michigan cookbook is “OUR BEST TO YOU” compiled by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1984. This cookbook is in a specially designed 3-ring binder that enables the reader to open the rings in case you want to put the page on the refrigerator door so you can make a recipe. The pages measure just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length. I haven’t been able to find any pre-owned copies in the most frequently websites that I visit. My guess is that it’s out of print and you may have to do some digging to find a copy. However, you don’t have to search very far for this easy Beef Brisket recipe:

1 4-5 pound beef brisket
Seasoned salt
Pepper
Dried minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash brisket thoroughly and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Brown in an open pan (I use a large cast iron skillet for this) for 30 minutes in the oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 1 hour. Layer the sliced onion over the meat and continue roasting an additional hour. Add water and cover, roast 1 hour more. Check for tenderness. Cool slightly and slice.

Note: Brisket may be prepared in advance. Reheat in pan juices before serving ~~~

Also published in 1984 and using the same format – the 3-ring binder that measures just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length is from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan and bears the title “Temptations.” In its Introduction we learn that the inspiration for the cookbook was based on the bounty of Michigan’s agriculture. The book contains over 500 recipes and here is a simple recipe from “Temptations” that is called Sesame Potato Spears. I love potato recipes that are not fried but are just as good if not better. This is the recipe for Sesame Potato Spears:

6 to 8 potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted (that would be half of one stick of butter)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup Dijon mustard (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut into long strips. Melt butter in a loaf baking dish and stir in seasonings. Stir the potatoes to coat. Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour or until tender.
(Sandy’s cooknote: I am inclined to put the melted butter and seasonings into a plastic zip-lock bag and then put the potatoes on a Pam-sprayed baking sheet that you have covered with foil. That is how I make my baked fries.

Note: Dijon mustard will give it an extra tang. ~~

“Temptations” is still available on Amazon.com – They have 4 new copies available from $5.43 and 5 used copies starting at $2.87. ~

A third cookbook compiled in a 3 ring binder just under 6½”wide and just under 9½” in length that is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks is titled “THE HOUSE ON THE HILL” which is a bed and breakfast inn, published in 2002 by Cindy and Tom Tomalka. The Tomalkas tell us they have had over 3000 couples and singles visit the Inn since April 1997—who have consumed over 14,000 breakfasts.

You won’t believe all the recipes just for making muffins – now muffins are a favorite recipe of mine – and it was a muffin recipe I was following the first time I made muffins using my mother’s big yellow bowl – which I dropped and broke when I was about ten years old. Muffins can be sweet or savory and a simple muffin is ideal for a young child to make when they are cooking for the first time. Here is a recipe for Michigan Maple Syrup Muffins:

2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup butter, melted (*1/2 cup butter is one stick)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, syrup and butter. Gradually pour this egg mixture into a well I the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir quickly. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overbeat or muffins will be tough. Spoon into greased mini-muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 30 mini-muffins.
The House on the Hill Inn has its own website with information on ordering a copy of their oh-so-inviting cookbook. You can write to the Tomalkas at innkeeper@thehouseonthehill.com.

Another spiral bound cookbook published in 1983 is “CULINARY COUNTERPOINT” published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Cookbook. This cookbook offers some recipes with unforgettable names, such as Hanky Pankys, Blinking Star, and Strip and go Naked! The recipe for a Ohio culinary treasure is BUCKEYE BALLS. (You will find Buckeye Balls at many sweet shops throughout Ohio – maybe Michigan too). To make Buckeye Balls you will need:

3 1-pound boxes powdered sugar
2 lbs smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 pound butter, softened
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ stick paraffin

Combine the sugar, peanut butter and butter and beat well. Roll into small balls and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Melt the chocolate with the paraffin I the top section of a double boiler over hot water. Stick a toothpick in one of the peanut butter balls, then dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden. Repeat until all candies have been dipped in the chocolate. Makes about 60 candies.
Amazon.com has five copies for sale, starting at $5.98.

Another spiral-bound favorite is “Renaissance Cuisine” that went through three printings by the time I found it. This cookbook was the endeavor of The Fontbonne Auxiliary of St Joseph Hospital. The Fontbonne Auxiliary was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Nazareth in 1947,
I am often stymied when it comes to choosing just one recipe from a church or club cookbook-but the following might be good for company or something to getting cooking when you are home from the office and trying to get something cooking while you make up a salad to go with. Here is Chicken No Peek Casserole:

1 cup rice, uncooked
6 chicken breasts or pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 cup sherry
Slivered almonds

Grease a 9×13” pan. Place rice on bottom, place chicken on top of the rice. In a separate container, mix the mushroom soup and water and pour that over the chicken. Pour Sherry over chicken Sprinkle onion soup and slivered almonds over all. bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Do not peek. A fresh fruit or cranberry mold completes this meal.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: nowhere does the recipe advise you to cover the dish with foil before baking in the oven – but then it tells you not to peek. I would interpret that to mean it needs to be covered with foil. Someone else might interpret to mean not to look into the oven while it’s baking.)

Renaissance Cuisine is available on Amazon.com new or pre-owned starting at $1.59—and 4 new copies starting at $.43; you can’t beat that!

Although I have many more Michigan church and club cookbooks, most are probably not available on the internet. I tried to stick to cookbooks interested readers might have a chance to find.

Happy cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting!

Sandy

This was originally posted on my blog in 2011! prices for the cookbooks mentioned may be lower.

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPORABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE & BOB — COOKBOOK AUTHORS
(previously posted 9/2012)

Back in 1965, when I first began collecting cookbooks, one of my first cookbook penpals was a woman in Michigan, Betsy, who has remained my friend to this day. I have been the happy recipient of many of her cookbooks as she began to downsize.

Betsy was the person who “introduced” me to the Browns – Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, authors of over a dozen really fantastic, outstanding cookbooks. Betsy had some duplicates of the Browns’ cookbooks and sent them to me. Well, I was quickly hooked. And it was the Browns’ “America Cooks” (published 1940 by Halcyon House), that really turned me onto church-and-club community cookbooks. (I was stunned to see “America Cooks” listed at $300 by an antiquarian book dealer. I bought an extra copy for $5.00 some time ago and gave it to someone who didn’t have a copy!)

Everyone of you who reads cookbooks like novels (and thinks you are the only person in the world who does this) would find “America Cooks” a most readable cookbook. Since “America Cooks” was published in 1940, others have followed in the Browns’ footsteps with dozens of cookbooks with “America” in the titles. None can compare with The Browns’ “America Cooks”.

In the foreword, the Browns wr0te, “We put in twenty years of culinary adventuring in as many countries and wrote a dozen books about it before finding out that we might as well have stayed at home and specialized in the regional dishes of our own forty-eight states. For America cooks and devours a greater variety of viands than any other country. We’re the world’s richest stewpot and there’s scarcely a notable foreign dish or drink that can’t be had to perfection in one or another section of our country….”

“For many years we Browns have been collecting regional American cooking lore, gathering characteristic recipes from each of the forty-eight states (Hawaii and Alaska had not yet become states in 1940) with colorful notes on regional culinary customs. Our collection is complete and savory. It has been our aim to make this America’s culinary source book, a means whereby each state and city may interchange its fine foods and dishes with every other, from coast to coast and from border to border. Here are forty-eight different cookbooks merged into one handy volume—a guide to the best in food and drink that this bounteous country offers. Obviously, no one person nor three, can cover every kitchen, even with such enthusiastic help as we have had from several hundred local authorities. But we believe this is our best food book, and in order to build it bigger and better in later editions, we should like to swap regional recipes and gustatory lore with all who are interested…”

And seventy something years later, I think “America Cooks” remains the Browns’ best food book. However, that being said, I found the most elusive cookbook of the Browns to be “THE VEGETABLE COOK BOOK”, subtitled “FROM TROWEL TO TABLE” by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown. Published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1939—I only recently obtained a copy through Alibris.com and paid a whopping $25.00 for a copy. (I justified it by it having the original dust jacket and being a first edition—although to tell the truth, I rarely spend that much on a book. And it seems that other copies are going for much higher prices.

Cora Brown, Robert’s mother, was born in Charlotte, Michigan, graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of music, married and brought up a family. She took up writing fiction and in 1920 went to Brazil to become co-publisher with her son and daughter in law, Rose. Cora lived with Bob and Rose in Japan, China, France, Germany, etc, becoming familiar with foreign customs and kitchens and collecting recipes with Rose. Cora is the author of “The Guide to Rio de Janerio” and co-authored ten cookbooks with Bob and Rose.

Rose Brown was born in Middletown, Ohio (not far from my hometown of Cincinnati), and graduated from Barnard College and Teachers College. She was a teacher, interior decorator, and journalist, contributing articles on cooking to Colliers, Vogue, This Week and other magazines. Rose was co-author with Cora and Bob on most of their cookbooks. One cookbook that does not list Cora is “Look Before You Cook” which shows Rose and Bob as authors. One cookbook authored solely by Bob Brown is “The Complete Book of Cheese.” “Culinary Americana” was written by Eleanor Parker and Bob Brown—Eleanor becoming Bob’s wife after Rose’s death.

According to Lippincott, the initiation of Rose into the mysteries of cooking was over a camp fire with game and instruction by her father. During World War I, she worked as a writer for the Committee of Public Information in Santiago, Chile. In Buenos Aires, Mrs. Brown became co publisher with Bob Brown of weekly magazines in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and London. Rose Brown had her own kitchen in a dozen countries and traveled all over the world, always pursuing her hobbies of collecting recipes and cooking lore—and going fishing with her husband. Rose Brown passed away in 1952.

Bob brown was born in Chicago and was graduated from Oak Park High School and the University of Wisconsin. He arrived in New York in 1908 to enter the writing lists, contributing verse and fiction to practically all the periodicals of the time. One of his first books, written after the end of Prohibition, was called “Let There Be Beer!” He then collaborated with his mother and wife Rose on “The Wine Cookbook,” first published in 1934 and reprinted many times. A 1960 edition was re-named “Cooking with Wine” .

Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was a writer, editor, publisher, and traveler. From 1908 to 1917, he wrote poetry and prose for numerous magazines and newspapers in New York City, publishing two pulp novels, “What Happened to Mary” and “The Remarkable Adventures of Christopher Poe” (1913), and one volume of poetry, “My Marjonary” (1916).

In 1918, Bob Brown traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, writing for the U.S. Committee of Public Information in Santiago de Chile. In 1919, he moved with his wife, Rose Brown, to Rio de Janeiro, where they founded Brazilian American, a weekly magazine that ran until 1929. With Brown’s mother, Cora, the Browns also established magazines in Mexico City and London: Mexican American (1924-1929) and British American (1926-1929).

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Browns retired from publishing and traveled through Asia and Europe, settling in France from 1929-1933. Brown became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris, publishing several volumes of poetry, including” Globe Gliding” (1930), “Gems” (1931), “Words” (1931), and “Demonics” (1931), as well as “1450-1950” (1929), a book of visual poetry. While in France, Brown also made plans toward, and wrote a manifesto for, the development of a “reading machine” involving the magnified projection of miniaturized type printed on movable spools of tape. Arguing that such a device would enable literature to compete with cinema in a visual age, Brown published a book of “Readies”—poems by Gertrude Stein, Fillipo Marinetti, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, typeset in a manner appropriate to operation of his projected reading machine. Although Brown’s reading machine was never developed, his papers include letters and papers pertaining to its projected design and technical specifications, as well as a collection of his own published and unpublished visual and conceptual writing. (Bob Brown was way ahead of his time – today, we have the Kindle and Nook. I can’t help but wonder if someone came across his manifesto and ran with it).

In 1933, Brown returned to New York. In the 1930s, he wrote a series of international cookbooks in collaboration with Rose and Cora Brown. He also lived in cooperative colonies in Arkansas and Louisiana, visited the USSR, and wrote a book, “Can We Co-Operate” (1940), regarding the parameters of a viable American socialism. In 1941, he and Rose returned to South America. While traveling down the Amazon they amassed a substantial collection of art and cultural artifacts and collaborated on a book, “Amazing Amazon” (1942). The Browns eventually reestablished residence in Rio de Janeiro, where they lived until Rose Brown’s death in 1952.

After thirty years of living in many foreign countries, and following the deaths of Cora and Rose, Bob Brown closed their mountain home in Petropolis, Brazil, and returned to New York, where he married Eleanor Parker in 1953. Brown continued to write and ran a shop called Bob Brown’s Books in Greenwich Village and ran a mail order business until his death in 1959. Shortly after Brown’s death, a new edition of “1450-1950” was published by Jonathan Williams’s Jargon/Corinth Press.
During his lifetime, Bob Brown authored more than a thousand short stories and thirty full length books.
The Browns appear to have used a number of different publishers for their cookbooks. While “Soups, Sauces and Gravies,” “Fish and Sea Food Cookbook,” Salad and Herbs” were published by Lippincott, “The Complete Book of Cheese” was published by Gramercy Publishing Company. “America Cooks” and “10,000 Snacks” were published by Halcyon House and “The European Cook Book” by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A few were published by companies I am unfamiliar with; “The Country Cookbook” by A.S. Barnes and Company, and “Most for Your Money Cookbook” by Modern Age Books. “Culinary Americana”, co-authored by Brown Brown and Eleanor Parker Brown, was published by Roving Eye Press (Bob Brown’s own publication name). For whatever reason, the Browns appear to have shopped around whenever they had a book ready for publication. (Or did they copyright them all first, and then shop for publishers?)
Recently, I began to rediscover the fabulous cookbooks written the Browns. Some unexpected surprises turned up—for instance, as I was browsing through the pages of “Most for Your Money” I found a chapter titled “Mulligans Slugullions, Lobscouses and Burgoos”—while I am unfamiliar with mulligans and lobscouses, I’ve written about slumgullion stew in sandychatter and have received messages from readers from time to time, sharing their stories about slumgullion stews of their childhoods. It starts out “Jack London’s recipe for slumgullion is both simple and appetizing…” providing some enlightenment about the history of slumgullion. (some other time, perhaps we can explore the obscure and mostly forgotten names of recipes).

And – synchronicity – I had just finished writing about sauces for my blog when I rediscovered, on my bookshelves, the Browns “Soups Sauces and Gravies” which simply reaffirmed my belief that the best cookbooks on sauces will be found in older cookbooks. This cookbook by the Browns was published in 1939.
The most complete list I have of the Browns’ cookbooks is as follows:
The Wine Cookbook, by Cora, Rose & Bob Brown, originally published in 1934, revised edition 1944, Little Brown & Company. In 1960 Bob Brown published a reprint of The Wine Cookbook with the title “Cooking With Wine” and under his Roving Eye Press logo.

The European Cook Book/The European Cookbook for American Homes is apparently the same book with slightly different titles. Subtitled The Four in One book of continental cookery, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France. I saw and nearly purchased on the internet an English version of the same book from a dealer in England. I already have three copies, don’t need a fourth! However, it should be noted that the original European Cook Book for American Homes was published in 1936 by Farrar & Rinehart. The 1951 edition with a shortened title was published by Prentice-Hall.
The Country Cook Book by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1937 by A.S. Barnes and Company.
Most for your Money CookBook, by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by Modern Age Books
Salads and Herbs, By Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by J.B. Lippincott
The South American Cookbook (what I have is a Dover Publication reprint first published in 1971. The original was published by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1939 – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown
Soups, Sauces and Gravies by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott Company
The Vegetable Cookbook by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott
America Cooks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 by Halcyon House.
Outdoor Cooking by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 The Greystone Press (*notes that parts of this book appeared in Collier’s and Esquire magazines)
Fish and Seafood Cook Book by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, published 1940 by J.B. Lippincott Company
Look Before you Cook by Rose and Bob Brown, published 1941 by Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.
10,000 Snacks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1948 by Halcyon House—the format and chatty style of 10,000 snacks is quite similar to “America Cooks”.
The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown, published 1955 by Gramercy Publishing
Culinary Americana by Eleanor Parker Brown and Bob Brown is a bibliography of cookbooks published in the cities and towns of the United States during the years from 1860 through 1960. It is believed that the first fund-raiser cookbook was compiled and published during the Civil War, by women to raised money for the Sanitation Commission. Culinary American focuses primarily on “regional” cookbooks, and notes that, “Certainly, it was after the War (i.e., the Civil War) that we find them printed in many states of the union,” writes Eleanor Parker Brown in the Introduction to Culinary Americana, “A survey of 200 cookbooks of our own collection, published at various times during this last century in Massachusetts showed that they came from seventy-four different cities and villages. In the case of many of the smaller places, these titles constitute the only books ever printed in these localities, which makes them important landmarks in the history of bookmaking in the state.
The regional cookbooks are a treasure trove of original recipes, as well as a record of old ‘receipts,’ reflecting the nationality background of the settlers of the community. Thus you will expect, and find, German foods in the old books of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Scandinavian receipts in the pamphlets of the Midwest, and Spanish dishes in the booklets published in the southwest…the little books, some in the handwriting of the contributor, often with signed recipes, gives us a glimpse of the gallant women who proudly cooked these meals and generously gave up their secrets ‘for the benefit of…others…”
Eleanor Parker Brown also shares with us, in the introduction, “Bob Brown first got together a cookbook collection for reference when he began to write about cooking. He had 1500 volumes which were purchased promptly by a grocery chain store as nucleus for their research library. It was then necessary for him to start a new collection. This was the origin of an interest in cookery books which lasted, and grew, to the end of this life. Bob saw cook books as social and cultural history in America; particularly, those regional books which were so close to the heart of the country…”
Eleanor says that after Bob’s sudden death, she continued work o this bibliography.” Culinary Americana includes listings of all the regional cookbooks we could either locate or obtain information about. It runs the gamut from ‘fifteen cent dinners for families of six’ to the extravagant and elaborate collations of Oscar of the Waldorf….”
“Culinary Americana” is the kind of book that cookbook collectors simply drool over.
As an aside, I find it curious that the Browns flooded the cookbook market within the span of a few years; from “The Wine Cookbook”, published in 1934, to “Look Before You Cook” published in 1941, the Browns published eleven cookbooks. Then they appear to have gone on hiatus until 10,000 snacks was published in 1948. However, given the extent of their travels and living in countries all over the world – it crossed my mind that perhaps all of these cookbooks were “in the works” while they lived abroad—and perhaps came home to get their cookbooks published. I’m speculating, of course. The first time I wrote about the Browns (for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1994) – information was scarce. Almost everything I wrote about was gleaned from the books or their dust jackets. Today, thanks to the internet, there is more biographical information available but not enough to satisfy my greedy soul. Of all the authors I have collected in the past 45 years, those by The Browns remain my all time favorites. I was stunned to discover Bob Brown had a bookstore and that he wrote over a thousand short stories and 30 full length books. Yowza – this trio did it all.
Another update! Some months ago I was stunned to receive a message on my blog from Rory Brown—Bob Brown was his great grandfather; Cora Brown was his great-great-grandmother. It isn’t the first time (and hopefully won’t be the last) that a descendant of someone I have written about on Sandychatter has written to me. It was with Rory’s assistance that I located a copy of the Browns’ Vegetable Cookbook. I’m not sure why this particular cookbook has been so elusive—possibly because it was never reprinted like some of the other cookbooks have been? The Brown descendants have mentioned the possibility of having the books reprinted—wouldn’t that be nice?
Meantime, here’s a bit to chew on from The Vegetable Cookbook – it starts out “Speaking of Spinach” and introduces us to Cora’s great-granddaughter, Sylvie—then age 4—at a Thanksgiving dinner of the whole Brown family “Last Thanksgiving” which I assume to have taken place in 1938, since the book was published in 1939. The Browns noted that “She possessed herself in patience until the napkin was knotted in place and the plate set before her. Surveying the many good things, she made a quick choice, jabbed her fork into the beans with a forthright gesture, appraised the mouthful, wiped a buttery trickle from her chin, beamed around at everybody and gave a little squeal of delight—‘Oh, I just love string beans, don’t you, Bob?’” and the authors take it from there.
Well, I love Spinach and home-grown cooked green beans (aka string beans) and the Browns write that “Greens are only an appetizing nibble at our subject, for in Florida alone, the State Department of Agriculture lists more than sixty local favorites” which they go on to list. The Browns stated they had, for years, been ardent readers of seed catalogs and had gardens of their own whenever they had the chance. It was from growing their own that they had the idea of writing The Vegetable Cook Book – from Trowel to Table”. They wrote of being fed up with “woody turnips, wilted spinach, limp beans and peas that would give you some bruises on the gullet, frayed heads of cauliflower, broccoli and iceberg lettuce past their prime, as well as those terrible lopsided little scallions that are sold for spring onions by grocers nowadays, we got a head start with a compost bed and survey of half a hundred catalogs…”
I wonder what the Browns would think if they could observe the produce department in many supermarkets more than seventy years later—the array is, admittedly, dazzling—but I find too often that whatever I buy fresh needs to be used almost immediately. A few days later, most lettuce and other greens has to be thrown out.
But returning to The Vegetable Cook Book – I was entertained (and reminded of personal experiences) as they wrote of their first vegetable gardens, forgetting what was planted where when the little sticks identifying various veggies would be lost or blown away and other hit-or-miss experiences…everyone who has had similar experiences will relate. For almost 25 years, I had a house-mate also named Bob, who tended our compost and planted the veggie gardens at our home in the San Fernando Valley, until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and discovered the need to re-learn gardening in the desert.
But getting back to my favorite cookbook authors, following their introduction and induction into vegetable gardening, the Browns move forward, alphabetically from Artichokes and Asparagus to Avocados (with a side-trip into the variables of vegetables that are a fruit, or fruits that are a vegetable, such as tomatoes and avocados). There are chapters on cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and chives, Kohlrabi and parsley, parsnips, peas – and many more…all the way down to Yams. I suspect that possibly one reason why The Vegetable Cook Book is so difficult to find is that it’s a dictionary of sorts, listing all the vegetables available to the Browns—with ways to cook them—maybe it belongs with my reference books rather than the cookbooks!

“The Vegetable Cook Book, From Trowel to Table” may pose a challenge for sandychatter readers to find a copy—but it’s sure to become a favorite reference cookbook if and when you do. (Cookbook collectors love the challenge of searching for a particular book).

—Sandra Lee Smith

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS

CHERYL AND BILL JAMISON are names you should recognize if you have been following my cookbook reviews for any length of time—I am unable to find my history on this couple at the present time—possibly because I lost a lot of material when I bought a new computer—and that came about after being seriously HACKED although I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be interested in hacking MY files – inasmuch as everything I have written about cooking and cookbook authors can be found on my Blog. Well, let me get to the point—I was unpacking a box of cookbooks to put on the shelves in the garage library (I think someone must have given them to me) and I found a cookbook by the Jamisons that I was totally unfamiliar with!

And it was published not so very long ago, in 2008 (for me, that’s recent); the title is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, with the intriguing subtitle “50,000 MILES, 10 COUNTRIES, 800 DISHES AND 1 ROGUE MONKEY” This book is in pristine condition with a spotless dust jacket that I wish I knew how to copy and post with this article. Published by Harper Collins, the dust jacket offers a charming photograph of the Jamisons, with the notation “Cheryl and Bill Jamison are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides. They appear regularly on television, and are frequent contributors to publications, including COOKING LIGHT and BON APPETIT. They live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.” I have to confess, my bafflement has just increased—I subscribe to both Cooking Light and Bon Appetit and don’t recall seeing any of their articles. (which means I will get out stacks of the latter magazine, which I keep, to search for the Jamisons)

Well, the first thing on MY mind, maybe yours too, was “Where did the Jamisons go? Per the dustjacket, “After years of writing award-winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready for a break. So in the fall of 2005 they packed their bags, locked up their house in Santa Fe, and set off on a three-month-long visit to ten countries—all on frequent flyer miles. Among their stops were

Bali

Australia

New Caledonia

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

Brazil

–and don’t forget France

I have to add that this book reminds me so much of the foreign countries one of my favorite authors, Myra Waldo visited and wrote about decades before the Jamisons. I can’t help but wonder if the Jamisons knew about Myra Waldo or were inspired by her.

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS” is as much prose (their adventures) as it is poetry (the recipes). Now, there have been many cookbooks written about food in other countries (perhaps more so after WW2 than prior to it, when our soldiers returned home with new recipes and in many instances, brides as well—but anything that the Jamisons write is sure to be interesting and transporting the reader to another country.

And while “Around the World in 80 Dinners” may take you on charming visits to these countries, I have to tell you there are only actually ten recipes in the book itself (yes, I counted) – so you will have to read the book for the ADVENTURES more than the recipes—although there is one made with your Wok, Charred Long Beans with Black Olives, that I have already earmarked to try.

If you yearn for a cookbook providing more recipes, may I suggest another Jamison favorite, AMERICAN HOME COOKING, which contains over 300 recipes.

I really enjoy the Jamisons’ style of writing—whether recipes or travel adventures; you feel like you know them and are a part of their circle of friends.

 

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SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS CHERYL & BILL JAMISON PART10 1&2

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHOR – PART 10-1 CHERYL ALTERS JAMISON & BILL JAMISON – AMERICAN HOME COOKING; SMOKE & SPICE, PART 2

While checking through some of my barbecue cookbooks, I remembered writing about Cheryl & Bill Jamison’s fantastic barbecue bible, titled SMOKE & SPICE, which I originally posted on my blog in July of 2012. And I was also reminded of the Jamison’s wonderful “AMERICAN HOME COOKING, subtitled “Over 300 Spirited Recipes Celebrating our Rich Tradition of Home Cooking” published in 1999. So—Part 10 will be all about Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison and some of my favorite cookbooks. -So, first here is AMERICAN HOME COOKING BY CHERYL ALTERS JAMISON & BILL JAMISON.

It never crossed my mind, as we approached the new millennium in 1999 that many cookbook writers would be working fast and furious to complete books about American cuisine of the past 100 years. I think I was busier worrying about Y2K to give new cookbook trends more than a passing thought. I was also busy doing a lot of writing for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange at the time.
A comment made by cookbook author Jean Anderson in the forward to one of these cookbooks set me straight, however, and also sent me in search of “my” kind of cookbook on bookstore shelves. I am partial to a lot of different types of cookbooks but especially those dedicated to what we loosely define as “American” cooking.
As many other cookbook authors have illustrated, different types of cuisine make up what we consider “typically” American food. This is because our country was settled by immigrants from many different countries throughout Europe and South American, people who brought their food traditions to the New world with them, often finding ways to adapt their recipes to the unfamiliar fruits and vegetables discovered in North America.

Several entire bookcases in my house are devoted entirely to cookbooks of this genre—primarily books with “American” in the title, but including any and all that fall into what I call my Americana category. “AMERICAN HOME COOKING” by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison really stood out on the shelves of one of my favorite bookstores.

Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison are the authors of numerous travel guides and cookbooks, including, I discovered while doing a name search on the Internet, “The Border Cookbook” which was a James Beard Award winner in 1996. In 1995, their cookbook “SMOKE AND SPICE” was a 1995 James Beard Award winner.
To compile AMERICAN HOME COOKING, the Jamisons visited family cheese crafters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania Dutch farmers between market days, and learned techniques for frying catfish from the first African American catfish farmer in Mississippi.

The publishers coax, “In a lively and lucid style that appeals to both novice and experienced cooks, the Jamisons invite you to sample a coast-to-coast feast of more than 300 recipes straight from the heart of America’s own home cooking tradition…”
Hefting this fairly weighty cookbook, you would think there were more than 300 recipes—but this volume is packed with other goodies as well, the very kind of background information that those of us who “read cookbooks like novels” are so partial to. (Show me a cookbook collector and I’ll show you someone who has stacks of cookbooks on their nightstand and piled up next to the bed—cookbook readers like to read cookbooks in bed).

AMERICAN HOME COOKING is just such a cookbook. Possibly the most difficult decision you will have to make is how to read it – page by page devouring the entire contents in one fell swoop, or–first the recipes and backing up to enjoy the wealth of historical information contained in numerous sidebars. (Sort of reminds me of the best way to eat an Oreo cookie).

The Jamisons note, “An extraordinary wealth of books exists on American home cooking. From just our familiar collection and two more extensive and professional collections at the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College, and Texas Woman’s University, we amassed a bibliography that runs on for fifty one single spaced pages, and that includes only the works that inspired us to take notes. We cut that list severely to produce this selection, honed to the books we used the most and would recommend to others interested in a deeper immersion in the subject….” (Sandy’s cooknote: you have no idea how I would love to do this—compile a bibliography of all MY cookbooks with America in the title.)

The Jamisons also included culinary essays and historical tomes as well as cookbooks. For readers who enjoy reading the bibliography as well as the book itself (and I know you are out there), you will enjoy this portion too. Kind of like a double serving of dessert after a fantastic dinner.

Recipes? Whether Oregon Hot Crab and Cheddar Sandwich, or Pico de Gallo, Prairie Fire Dip, or Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Cakes, whether Main Steamed Lobster or Mississippi Barbecued Chicken, or Kansas City Sugar-and-Spice Spareribs, AMERICAN HOME COOKING criss-crosses the United States from East to West and from North to South, presenting with obvious forethought the selections chosen for us by the Jamisons.

There are recipes I have not seen or heard of elsewhere, such as “The Gardener’s Wife Salad”, “Maque Choux” and “Honolulu Poke” but many others are familiar traditionally American choices, such as Hoppin’ John, Virginia Country Ham, and new England Boiled Dinner (one of my favorites; my mother-in-law used to make something similar to this—but she was from West Virginia, not New England).

One special feature of AMERICAN HOME COOKING that you will absolutely love are sidebars—interesting food related quotes from many of our favorite cookbook authors of the past century or two, such as current writers James Villas and John Egerton, but including quotes from M.F.K. Fisher, Sarah Tyson Rorer, James Beard and Irma Rombauer. There is even a rhymed recipe from one of the Brown’s cookbooks, AMERICA COOKS, a great favorite of mine.
I especially like a quotation credited to Laurie Colwin in Gourmet Magazine in May, 1990, in which she stated “Anyone who spends any time in the kitchen eventually comes to realize that what she or he is looking for is the perfect chocolate cake”.
Another delight was from George Rector, author of DINE AT HOME WITH RECTOR (1934) in which he sang the praises of pie, stating “A nation with its heart in the right place would long since have erected a monument as tall as the State of Liberty to the unknown heroine who baked the first American pie—its unworthy ancestors abroad can be discarded. The pedestal should be round and divided into six pieces and the figure should be holding up a pie the size of those in Paul Bunyan’s lumber camps On the pedestal should be inscribed what might be a quotation from Walt Whitman’s ‘O Pioneers!’”

Some years ago, a columnist from the Los Angeles Times asked me, if I could only choose five cookbooks, which five would they be? I was hard-pressed at the time to choose just five. But I have to say, now, that AMERICAN HOME COOKING would be my number one choice.

AMERICAN HOME COOKING by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, was published by Broadway Books, NY, in 1999. It originally sold for $35.00.

You can find it on Amazon.com—Hardcover copies are available starting at one cent, softcover new or preowned staring at twenty three cents (shipping and handling will cost you $3.99 This is a worthy addition to any cookbook collector’s collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith
**
SMOKE & SPICE B7 CHERYL AND BILL JAMISON, PART 10 – 2
“SMOKE & SPICE”,

Newly re-published (revised edition) in 2003, was at that time the very latest cookbook from outdoor cooking experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who are the authors of over a dozen cookbooks and travel guides.

I’ve been a fan of the Jamisons ever since I discovered “AMERICAN HOME COOKING”.

“SMOKE & SPICE” is a James Beard Award winner that has already sold more than half a million copies – and, state the publishers, is the only authoritative book on the subject of genuine smoke-cooked barbecue. (Prior to acquiring “Smoke & Spice”, the only recipes I had on this subject were in a small booklet that accompanied the Brinkmann® Smoker that we bought some years ago).

In the preface to the Revised Edition, the Jamisons write, “From the time we first started writing cookbooks, more than a dozen years ago, we’ve always seen our efforts as paeans to underappreciated foods and the cultures that surround them…” They say their previous cookbooks so far have dealt with things like Texas home cooking, border traditions that Americans share with northern Mexico, and breakfast outside the box (see a list of the Jamisons’ cookbooks at the end of this review). They feel the subjects they choose to write about don’t make much buzz when chefs and other culinary pros gather (I have to say, I wouldn’t care what the professionals thought as long as ordinary people like us were impressed and buying their books).

However, the Jamisons continue, “Imagine our shock, then, when the cookbook that seemed the mostly clearly out of the mainstream happened upon a trend. When we decided to write “SMOKE & SPICE”, even our long-term publisher balked at the idea. Who could possibly be interested in an old-fashioned style of cooking that is slow, smoky, and dominated by good ol’ boys and grizzled black pitmasters? We couldn’t find one person who thought that real barbecue was cookbook material…”

Luckily for us, the Jamisons didn’t care—they love to barbecue and knew that it would be great fun to cook, eat, and write about
this food topic.

“SMOKE & SPICE” they say, “came along at a time when Americans wanted to spend more time outside, when we finally got fed up with burned birds for outdoor dinners, when we went through a nostalgia phase….”

These and a lot of other reasons caused a revival of interest in real, smoke-cooked barbecue. Now, a decade later, barbecue continues to soar in popularity. “Even chefs, women and city folks talk about it now,” the Jamisons say. Consequently, they decided to take a fresh look at the book. Their publishers wanted to know whether the original recipes are still on target, or if they had been barbecuing anything new in recent years that other people would like. Were they doing different side dishes, now, or desserts, or other special treats? Did the Jamisons have a stockpile of fresh barbecue stories and tips? The answer was yes, yes, yes, to everything – so it was back to the drawing board (or in this case, the computer) where the Jamisons added 100 new recipes and many other changes to their original book.

“It’s time to graduate from grilling,” say the Jamisons. “American cooks have been enrolled in ‘Introductory Barbecue’ for a half-century now, since the days when we all liked Ike…” (for those of you too young to remember, Ike was President Eisenhower. When he campaigned for the presidency in the 1950s, we all wore big buttons that read “I like Ike.” We had two black lab puppies we named Mike & Ike).

“We’ve enjoyed cooking outdoors,” reflect the Jamisons, “but we’re weary of wieners and charred chicken, yearning more and more for the full flavor of old-time, real barbecue, the kind popularly known as ‘Bar-B-Q’ food that dances on your senses and gets to your lips to rejoicing…”

“SMOKE & SPICE” is a complete guide to the genuine article. “Where we move,” write Cheryl and Bill, “beyond searing and sizzling into really smoking. Some of the hundreds of books on barbecue grilling acknowledge and applaud this advanced art but they usually suggest that a home cook can’t hope to match the results of a professional pitmaster in the Carolinas, Kansas City, Memphis, or Texas. At best, they may say, you can add a few wood chips to a conventional grill or slather or smoky sauce over food…”

“Bunk!” decry the Jamisons. In the last two decades, they say, there’s been a revolution in home smoking equipment and supplies, the subject of the first two chapters of their book. These new developments allow anyone to make great barbecue—real, honest to goodness “Q”—in your back yard or on your balcony or even inside, often in ways that avoid the potential health hazards of grilling. “All you need to succeed” suggest the Jamisons, “are the right resources and a little learning about the barbecue craft and its delightful part-and-parcel culture..”

“Today,” note the authors, “we use the term ‘barbecue’ in a multitude of ways, but in the American past, it mainly meant a big, festive community gathering…George Washington probably even slept at one. In his diary, the first president noted that he once went to Alexandria, Virginia, for a ‘barbicue’ that lasted three days…”

And when workers laid the cornerstone for our nation’s capitol in 1793, the leaders of the new country celebrated with a huge barbecue. And, as the Jamisons themselves point out, who could forget when Scarlett O’Hara met Rhett Butler at a barbecue in “GONE WITH THE WIND”?

“The cooks didn’t grill hamburgers at those affairs,” note the Jamisons. “They dug a long, deep pit in the ground, filled this trench with logs, burned the wood down to low-temperature coals, and then slow-roasted whole animals and fish suspended above the smoky fire…” That was barbecue, and, say the Jamisons, it’s still the essence of the art. To really return to your roots, you must celebrate a meal with friends and family by smoking food slowly and low over smoldering wood.

However, much of this tradition has been lost except in the rural regions of the South, Southwest, and Midwest.

“SMOKE & SPICE” will take you by the hand (the one holding onto the basting brush) and provide easy to follow lessons on the various kinds of smokers, including the vertical water smoker (which is what we have at my house) and the how-to of putting together everything you need to have your own smoker. There is a chapter devoted to fuels and tools, all of which you should read carefully before you embark on preparing your own Bar-B-Q in this unique method. One method that may interest you, if space is a problem, is Stovetop Smoking, for those who don’t have the yard or balcony or other appropriate space for smoking meat. For you, ”the ‘barbecue pit’ of choice,” write the Jamisons, “is a crafty inexpensive device called a stovetop smoker…” Cheryl and Bill use one made by a Colorado Springs company, Camerons who you can call at 888-563-0227) or you can look them up on their website at http://www.cameronssmoker.com.

What can you expect from “SMOKE & SPICE”?

After the Introduction, and a chapter titled “The Secret of Success” which delves into barbecue basics, the various types of fuels and different kinds of smokers, “SMOKE & SPICE” starts out with recipes for rubs and spice medleys, pastes, and marinades. I especially like the Name-Your-Herb Paste, nice for those of us who have an herb garden….but there is Roasted Garlic Mash, Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub, Poultry Perfect Rub, rubs for seafood and rubs for beef. Primo Paste is a paste especially good on lean foods, especially turkey, while Kentucky Pride is a smoky sweet paste that will enhance better cuts of pork and beef. Everything you ever wanted to know about rubs and pastes and marinades is right here! Along with the recipes are BBQ tips and side bars which I find as interesting to read as the recipes. For instance: “Hundreds of Web Sites deal with barbecue in one way or another, often promoting cook-offs, sauces and rubs, catering businesses, smoking equipment and the like. A large number of the sites are linked through http://www.smokering.net. From there you can surf yourself silly through wave after wave of barbecue boasting. (Recently, when I was visiting my sister in Tennessee, we watched on cable the cook-off held annually by Jack Daniels—it really makes you want to get into cook-offs….or at least be a taster at one of these events!).

Marinades in “SMOKE & SPICE” range from James Beard’s Basic Barbecue Marinade to a Red Wine Marinade, Stout Beer Marinade, and Jalapeno-Lime Marinade. Cheryl’s Cider Soak, made with apple cider and cider vinegar sounds right up my alley. Next are an assortment of “Mops and Bastes”, important ingredients in traditional barbecuing, needed to keep the food moist and adding an extra layer of flavor. Choose from Southern Sop to Basic Beer Mop, Lemon Splash, Lightning Mop (made with pickled jalapenos) and Pop Mop (easily made with Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola or R.C. Cola).

I’m telling you, there are so many wonderful recipes for pork that you’ll be hard-pressed deciding where to start. There is even a recipe for going “Whole Hog” – barbecuing a full grown hog, 120 to 150 pounds! While most of us may not be quite so adventurous…the recipe is there in case you need it for your next luau party. As for me, I like the sound of Memphis Mustard Pork Sandwich, Lone Star Spareribs, Kansas City Sloppy Ribs and Cajun Country Ribs. Or, you may be tantalized by Ginger-Glazed Ham, or Maple-Bourbon Ham, both easily made with a 12 to 14 pound cooked ready-to-eat ham. (I can’t wait to try both of these recipes). Or, you might be tempted by Weeknight Pork Tenderloin which, say the Jamisons, because of its long thin shape, is one of the quickest and easiest meats to transform with smoke. Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meats to cook for the family – because everyone likes it so much. I suspect they will like it even more as Weeknight Pork Tenderloin or Sweet and Fruit Pork Tenderloin. There are these and many other pork recipes from which to choose.

Then, under a chapter titled “Bodacious Beef” you will find so many great recipes—I’ll be making Braggin’ Rights Brisket next time my brother comes to visit, just to prove that I can make a great brisket too! However, there are recipes for Simply Elegant Beef Tenderloin, Drunk and Dirty Tenderloin, Carpetbag Steak, Soy-Glazed Flank Steak, Standing Tall Prime Rib – and “Ain’t Momma’s Meat Loaf” – Meat Loaf made in my smoker! Who would have ever guessed?

There are recipes for barbecuing lamb, mutton, goat, veal, venison and rabbit. Then there are the recipes for chicken, turkey, duck, quail, and pheasant. Then there are all of the recipes for barbecuing salmon, trout, catfish, flounder, rockfish, snapper, tuna (no, not your canned chopped tuna – this calls for tuna steaks), as well as swordfish, grouper, shrimp, scallops – as well as other seafood.

Next are all the recipes for smoke-scented salads, pastas, and pizzas. “It makes no sense to us,” say Cheryl and Bill, “to spend hours barbecuing for just one meal. You might as well buy socks one at a time. With hardly any more expenditure or effort, time, or beer, you can easily smoke food for several meals at once…”
The Jamisons say that, typically, when they fire up their big barbecue pit, they cook enough pork butt, beef brisket, and other freezer-friendly goodies to last them for months of sandwiches, salads, hashes, pastas, and the like—and what’s left after an initial feeding frenzy with friends. They write, “Even when we’re barbecuing in an outdoor smoker with a small capacity, we fill it with sausages, fish fillets, peppers and other tuck-away items for deliberate leftovers in the days ahead….” Their chapter on Smoke-Scented Salads, Pastas and Pizzas covers some of the dishes they make with the extra food, each suitable for serving as a main course. This great section contains recipes with mouth-watering names, such as Calico Pepper Salad, Smoldering Vegetable Antipasto Platter, Wild Mushroom Calzone and Smoky Summer Spaghetti.
The next section is titled “While You Wait” and these are recipes you can pop into your smoker when dinner won’t be ready for a while and you have hungry people standing around waiting to be fed. These are appetizer and hors d’oeuvre recipes but unlike appetizers you’ve seen elsewhere. Think: Nachos Blancos, Smoke Mushroom Quesadillas, Curry Pecans, Smoked Rosemary Walnuts, Smoke Trout on Apple Slices – and much, much, more.

The following chapter is devoted to Barbecue Sauces and here the Jamisons provide more than twenty recipes . I had to laugh out loud reading the sidebar “Serious Secrets”—“Barbecuists,” write the Jamisons, quoting John Thorne, editor of “Simple Cooking newsletter in 1988, “put secret ingredients into their sauces for the same reason that dogs piss on trees; to mark out a piece of territory as their own. The secret ingredient is not intended to make the sauce ‘better’ but to mark it in such a way as to leave no doubt that it’s unique—it is peerlessness, not flavor, that makes it perfect, The praise it wants is not culinary exclamation but surrender. ‘Damn it, J.D., but I’ve never tasted the like.’” So, whether you want Struttin’ Sauce or Smoke Butter, Memphis Magic or West Coast wonder, Cinderella Sauce or South Florida Citrus Sauce – there is something to satisfy the taste buds of every one of us.

Since “SMOKE & SPICE” is a cookbook intended to provide you with all the recipes you need for your next barbecue, the Jamisons have thoughtfully included side dishes –explaining, “What pitmasters serve on the side has a lot to do with what they serve in the center, and that has a lot to do with where they happen to be holding forth. Somewhere in this country, someone offers almost anything you can imagine, from pig snouts to tamales. However, Cheryl and Bill’s recipes cover the most traditional dishes plus a few of the most unusual, but they don’t always fix them in a purely old-fashioned way. “In some cases,” they say, “we’ve spiced up the preparation a bit to help finish off the flavor of a dish, so that it can stand alone as well as sit on the side…” However, despite these occasional embellishments, they tell us their recipes remain true to their tradition. Look here for recipes for creamy coleslaw, Kansas City Baked Beans, Candied Sweet Potatoes or Buttermilk Onion Rings, Prize Pilau and Buttermilk Biscuits. These and other recipes will answer any questions about what to serve with your barbecue. There is also an entire chapter on Side-Dish Salads and Relishes and I have to confess, pickles and relishes are one of my favorite things to make and eat. So, along with Southern Caesar Salad and San Antonio Cactus and Corn Salad, look for Hot German Potato Salad and Okra Pickles, Bodacious Bread-and-Butter Pickles and Wonderful Watermelon Pickles…as for me, I am heading for the kitchen to whip up a batch of Bourbon Peaches from the peaches growing in my own back yard—this recipe is absolutely perfect for using small to medium size peaches.

No barbecue would be complete without dessert – “Barbecue demands dessert,” say the Jamisons, “even if it’s no more than a packaged peanut pattie or fried pie…Sweet follows smoke as naturally as amorous eyes track after tight jeans…” And, they say, the best desserts for a barbecue pig-out are the old American favorites. Think: Prodigal Pecan Pie, Peanut Butter Cake, Black Walnut Cake, Peach Melba Ice Cream and Key Lime Pie.

Finally, there is a chapter dedicated to “Cool and Cheery Drinks” and here you will find directions for making such all time favorites as Derby Day Mint Julep, Turquoise Margarita, Sangrita Maria and more.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison have outdone themselves with “SMOKE & SPICE”, packed with over 300 recipes as well as tons of tips and information. It’s a book you will refer to time and time again, sure to become your barbecue bible.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are the authors of 15 cookbooks and travel guides including the following titles:

SMOKE & SPICE first edition (winner of a James Beard Book Award)
SMOKE & SPICE 2003 revised edition
BORN TO GRILL (winner of a Food & Wine Best of the Best Award)
A REAL AMERICAN BREAKFAST
AMERICAN HOME COOKING (winner of a James Beard Book Award and an IACP Cookbook Award)
THE BORDER COOKBOOK (winner of a James Beard Book Award)
SUBLIME SMOKE
TEXAS HOME COOKING
THE RANCHO DE CHIMAYO COOKBOOK

I visited the Jamisons’ website and discovered their latest cookbook titles –

TASTING NEW MEXICO
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS
And in 2007
THE BIG BOOK OF OTUDOOR COOKING & ENTERTAINING (James Beard award winner).
The Jamisons are also the authors of the following travel guides:
THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO SANTA FE, TAOS AND ALBUQUERQUE
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HAWAII
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE CARIBBEAN
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MEXICO

To find a copy of SMOKE & SPICE, I found it listed on Amazon.com new, hardbound copy for $15.71 in paperback new and preowned starting at 5.41. When I searched on Amazon.com for Smoke & Spice I discovered it has been republished a couple of times so you can pretty much find whatever you are looking for, in price and/or condition. If you just want one good barbecue cookbook, this would be a good choice.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

HAPPY COOKING AND HAPPY COOKBOOK COLLECTING!
SANDY

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS–PART 9, RUTH REICHL & JAMES VILLAS

WHERE ARE YOU NOW, RUTH REICHL?

It has weighed on my mind ever since GOURMET Magazine folded a few years ago—and I think I must have been one of those subscribers to be knocked for a loop with the sudden and unexpected closing of GOURMET’s doors—and I am still peeved that I didn’t get a copy of the December issue featuring cookies!!

I had re-subscribed to Gourmet shortly after Ruth Reichl joined the Gourmet editorial staff.

Actually, Gourmet magazine and I go back a long ways. I had a huge collection of Gourmet magazines, dating back years; those were just one of the things I sold or gave a way in 1979 when we were moving to Florida and didn’t have enough space for inconsequential, such as my collections of magazines, cookie jars and recipe boxes—mind you, this was some years before you could rent a storage unit anywhere, anytime. If storage units had been available back then, I would still have a lot of things I regret leaving behind. So, a few years after moving back to the San Fernando Valley in California, I began to subscribe to my favorite cooking magazines—Gourmet and Bon Appetit were just two—and throughout the years that Bob and I (and usually one or more of my sons) were living in the Arleta house, where Bob created an office for both of us and additional shelves (to store magazines) in a space connecting the office with the den.

Ruth Reichl first came to my attention with the publication of a book titled “TENDER AT THE BONE/ Growing Up at the Table” – the title alone spoke volumes to me, a child of the 40s and 50s, learning how to cook when I was about ten years old. Another winner in my book was COMFORT ME WITH APPLES and also GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES. So, when I discovered that Ruth Reichl was on the editorial staff at COURMET Magazine….I re-subscribed.

When GOURMET closed its doors, I often wondered where Ruth Reichl had gone after that. Well, the answer came to me in the guise of an article in the New York Times, sent to me by one of my Michigan penpals. Titled DINNER WITH RUTH, it answered all of my questions. By Kim Severson, I read every word and then went back and read through it all a second time. Ok, I am a big Ruth Reichl fan—but you want to know what it also reminded me of?

Myra Waldo and my decades-long search for a) all of Myra’s cookbooks and b) my inability to learn what happened to her when she stopped writing cookbooks. You would think that, given the ability of the Internet to track down everyone near or far away—that it shouldn’t be all that difficult to find a favorite author/editor. Another thing that has worried me since Gourmet closed its doors—what happened to their library of research material? Stuff like that worries me in the same way that I worry about my cookbook collection and all of MY research material.

But getting back to Ruth Reichl – I guess she hasn’t disappeared altogether. She is living with her husband and is doing a lot of cooking – she is also writing another cookbook that I can’t wait to buy. I want to tell her she is only 67 – that’s young when you (me) are turning 75 in a few days. I love it that she writes in a little cabin behind their house – I am reminded that when I retired at 62 and converted a room into MY writing room (Bob had his own desk in the same room) I vowed to write, write, write. Well, I DO write but nothing like I planned – my writing has been mostly for newsletters like THE COOKBOOK COLLECTORS EXCHANGE – and after that folded, I wrote for another newsletter, INKY TRAIL NEWS…but for the past few years – since 2009 – I have been writing a blog. It was the suggestion of friend Wendy who edited INKY TRAILS (now also defunct) – but the blog, Sandy’s Chatter, is my baby – I can write about anything that piques my curiosity…such as Ruth Reichl. If you are as keen as I am about learning what Ruth Reichl is doing today, try FOOD in the New York Times, September 16, 2015 edition. I don’t know how many toes I could be stepping on if I quoted very much from Kim Severson’s excellent article….so you might try your own internet search. Meantime, I will be watching Amazon.com for Ruth’s soon to be published cookbook.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Update! Ruth Reichl’s long-awaited cookbook RUTH REICHL, MY KITCHEN YEAR was published in 2015; it combines recipes with dialogue, much the same way that TENDER AT THE BONE and COMFORT ME WITH APPLES did. It’s wonderful to have some answers to what a favorite writer did after GOURMET closed its doors. Ruth is also the author of GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES. I immediately ordered MY KITCHEN YEAR and I am reading it now.
**

MY KITCHEN YEAR is available at Amazon.com for $21.94 new, hardbound copy, or $15.99 & up for preowned & new other choices.
**

JAMES VILLAS’ CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES

If I say to you the name “James Villas”, what comes to mind? Southern cooking? The food and wine editor of TOWN & COUNTRY magazine? Or perhaps you think of James’ mother, Martha Pearl Villas, about whom several of his cookbooks revolved and after whom were aptly named.

“CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES”, by James Villas was first published in 2003 by the Harvard Common Press. First posted on my blog in 6/2012.

In speaking of James Villas, well-known cookbook authors Jane and Michael Stern wrote, “James Villas writes recipes like they are love letters. To hear him rhapsodize about America’s casseroles is to share a soul-stirring cultural perspective; and to cook these good dishes is to create edible pleasure, meal after meal…”

You have to be captivated by a man who writes recipes like they are love letters!

Before some of you make a face and say something like “Ew, ew, I don’t like casseroles”, I have to tell you, casseroles have evolved considerably since the days of your mother’s tuna-noodle-potato chip concoction. To quote James Villas, “…Unfortunately, by the early 1970s, some casseroles had been so abused by the use of canned luncheon meats and vegetables, dried parsley and garlic powder, Velveeta, bouillon cubes, MSG, crushed potato chips, and heaven knows what other ‘convenience’ ingredients that the whole cooking concept gradually plunged into disrepute…”

“Sadly and unfairly left behind in the carnage carried out by zealous food snobs,” says Villas, “was a veritable wealth of honest, intelligent and delectable casseroles….”

Mr. Villas’ philosophy reminded me of the discovery, in my early 20s (after getting married and beginning to cook for my own family), that much of what I thought I disliked about beets, cabbage, and rice wasn’t actually the food itself – it was just the way my mother cooked it. (Mom’s idea, for instance, of cooking cabbage was to put the pot on the stove around 9 a.m. – for 6 O’clock dinner. Need I say more?).

So, set aside any prejudice the word “casserole” conjures up for you, and discover James Villas’ “CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES”.

In the Introduction to “CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES”, Mr. Villas explains that “nothing typifies American cookery more than the sumptuous, highly varied casseroles that have been baking in ovens all over the country for the past century. In fact,” he claims, Casseroles not only define a major style of food on which millions of us were virtually weaned, but also illustrate like no other dishes what authentic regional cooking is all about.”

“Just mention,” he writes, “jambalaya and spoonbread to a Southerner, for instance, or baked beans and Indian pudding to a New Englander, or tamale pie to a Texan, or Dungeness crab and olive bake to a West Coaster, and watch the eyes light up…”

Mr. Villas explains that over the decades, casseroles such as crabmeat Dewey, shrimp de Jonghe, chicken spaghetti, hog pot, country captain, and Sally Lunn have evolved into regional classics. “I dare say,” Mr. Villas says, “there’s no honest soul anywhere who doesn’t swoon over a luscious chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, corn pudding and apple brown better….”

Mr. Villas believes that casseroles deserve new attention. I have to agree.
“Just 40 or so years ago,” writes Villas, “there wasn’t a cook in this country who didn’t boast favorite casseroles intended to provide a practical, nutritious, and delicious way to feed both a small family and a large group of hungry friends. The ultimate holiday, wedding, or birthday gift was one of dozens of beautiful casserole dishes designed to enhance all sorts of baked components, and who could deny that anything was more mouthwatering (and easy to prepare) than a bubbly layered meat and vegetable casserole or a creamy poultry or seafood one crusted to a golden finish on top?”

Mr. Villas says it was an era without pretentions, when people gathered at the dining room or buffet table simply to share good food and enjoy one another’s company, a time when cooking, far from being the complicated, contrived and overwrought activity it often is today, was still a leisure affair, and when nothing satisfied and impressed more than a carefully prepared, attractive casserole, a fresh salad, a good loaf of bread, and an appropriate beverage.

The irony, writes Villas, “is that before casserole cookery became so popular during the first half of the twentieth century and gradually took on a distinctive American identity all its own, to prepare food en casserole in the European style was deemed the ultimate in culinary sophistication. (The actual origins of the French word ‘casserole; can be traced back to a Renaissance pot or crock called a casse.) French cassoulet and coq au vin, Spanish paella, Italian Lasagne, Moroccan tajine, Green pastitsio, Indian pilau, British hot pot—the names might have sounded exotic in those early days, but being no more than a combination of ingredients baked in and usually served directly from an earthenware, metal, or tempered glass vessel, the one-pot dishes were essentially no different from the simple casseroles that would become such an integral part of American cookery….”

Villas notes that Fannie Farmer only included a single casserole of meat and rice in her pioneering cookbook, “but it was not till the first decade of the twentieth century that such influential authors such as Marion Harland, Olive Hulse, and Marion Neil began to feature recipes for different types of casseroles. During World War I and the Depression, casseroles were promoted as a means to economize; Campbell’s introduction of canned soups not long after as a substitute for elaborate sauces added a whole new dimension to casserole cookery; by 1943, THE JOY OF COOKING included almost two dozen sumptuous casseroles, and so popular were casseroles by the 1950s, that James Beard devoted a whole cookbook to the subject…”

(I have to go a step further, and add that many other well-known cookbook authors of the 1940s and 1950s were also writing about casseroles—Myra Waldo, Florence Brobeck, Marian Tracy and Betty Wason were just a few of the writers who had something to say about this subject. Some of their books, in particular those published during World War II, were especially aimed at teaching American housewives how to stretch a dollar, a bit of meat, and their ration coupons with casserole cookery. Marion Tracy’s “CASSEROLE COOKERY” was first published in 1941 while her “MORE CASSEROLE COOKERY” was published in 1951. Florence Brobeck’s “COOK IT IN A CASSEROLE” was published in 1943. Myra Waldo’s “THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK” was published in 1963 while Waldo’s “COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH”, a similar theme, was published in 1965).

But along came the 1970s, canned luncheon meats and crushed potato chips and before long, our Pyrex casserole dishes were being relegated to the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. (Now many of those 50s casserole dishes can be found in antique stores, with price tags that have us doing a double-take).

Mr. Villas explains, since it appears, today, that every effort is finally being made to reclaim much of our culinary heritage (extending to everything from Tex-Mex and soul food to Shaker and Pennsylvania Dutch cookery to traditional Jewish desserts, his goal in “CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES” is not only to restore old-fashioned, regional American casseroles—from appetizers to desserts—to their rightful status but also to demonstrate how our rich bounty of relatively new ingredients can be adapted to produce wondrous casseroles unimaginable in the past.

He has included old favorites such as shrimp Creole, crabmeat Norfolk and turkey divan but has also put an emphasis on casseroles made with fresh cheeses, ethnic sausages, lesser cuts of meat, root vegetables and new varieties of beans and wild mushrooms, fennel and celery root, baby leeks and sugar snap peas, interesting herbs and spices, oats and multigrain breads, and even a few exotic fruits!

However, Villas adds, “to maintain the distinctive character of the American casserole” he has no objection to the use of such traditional components as leftover cooked foods, canned broths, soups, and tomatoes, packaged bread stuffings, certain frozen vegetables, plain dried noodles, pimentos, and supermarket natural aged cheeses. “On the other hand,” he admonishes, “nowhere in this book will you find canned meats and vegetables, frozen chives or dried parsley flakes, processed cheeses, liquid smoke, MSG, bouillon cubes, crushed potato chips, or, heaven forbid, canned fruit cocktail…”

James Villas says he must own at least 20 different casserole dishes—I think it’s quite possible that I have just about as many (I also have a thing for bowls and containers). In any case, dig your favorite casserole dishes out of the recesses of your kitchen cabinet – and read on. You’re about to re-discover the virtues of casserole cooking!

“CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES” provides 275 All-American hot dish classics. Like most cookbooks, it is indexed according to type – consequently, you have a chapter devoted to Appetizer Casserole Dips, Quiches, and Ramekins, followed by Breakfast and Brunch Casseroles, Stratas and Scrambles, then various other categories – including Casseroles for a Crowd, Vegetable Bakes,, Gratins, and Soufflés – and last, but certainly not least, Casserole Cobblers, Crisps, Crunches and Delights.
I especially like the format of this oversized soft-cover cookbook, with its easy-to-read (and follow ) print and the interesting Side Bars. It’s entertaining, also, to discover where and how Mr. Villas obtained some of his treasured casserole recipes.

It’s difficult to single out particular recipes that I would recommend—but since I am especially partial to breakfast and brunch casseroles or stratas, let me mention Herbed Brunch Egg Casserole, Wild Mushroom Brunch Casserole, Country Ham, Spinach, and Mozzarella Strata and Ranchero Green Chile, Cheese and Tomato Casserole. This is just a small sampling of the thirty recipes listed in just this one chapter. On a personal level, I have to say these types of casseroles never went out of favor in my household and when I am having the entire family here for a brunch, it’s a great convenience to be able to make up a couple of breakfast casseroles the day before and know that you’ve only got to pop them into the oven the next day.

Busy homemakers will love the wide assortment of recipes from which to choose – I’m willing to bet that “CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES” will become your kitchen bible – but read the cookbook front-to-back, first, because Mr. Villas provides us with such a wealth of information and detail concerning the recipes chosen for this
book. (of course, as everybody knows, cookbook collectors read cookbooks the way other people read novels – “CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES” won’t disappoint.

James Villas is also the author of the following:

AMERICAN TASTE
THE TOWN & COUNTRY COOKBOOK
JAMES VILLAS’ COUNTRY COOKING
VILLAS AT TABLE
THE FRENCH COUNTRY KITCHEN
MY MOTHER’S SOUTHERN KITCHEN
STEWS, BOGS, AND BURGOOS
MY MOTHER’S SOUTHERN DESSERTS
MY MOTHER’S SOUTHERN ENTERTAINING
BETWEEN BITES

“CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES” from the Harvard Common Press can be obtained from Amazon.com for $17.70, new paperback, or starting at 01.cent from private vendors, as well as starting at .77 cents and up for new and pre-owned hardbound copies.. Bear in mind that pre-owned books from private vendors cost 3.99 for shipping and handling.
Happy Cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

— Sandra Lee Smith

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS-PART 8, ELIZABETH DAVID & MARY MARTENSEN

ELIZABETH DAVID:

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE”, originally posted July, 2011

The following is a cookbook review that I wrote in either 2000 or 2001 when “Is There a Nutmeg in the House” was published. Elizabeth David passed away in 1992 at her Chelsea home in England, where she had lived for forty years. Still, her books are eagerly sought after and new cookbook collectors would do well to search for them. In 2006, the BBC released a made-for-television film starring Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth. It was called “Elizabeth David: A Life in Recipes”. Not surprisingly; Ms. David led a most interesting life. You may want to find a copy of “WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF ELIZABETH DAVID” by Artemis Cooper.
This is what I wrote for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange a decade ago:
Devoted fans of Elizabeth David will be delighted to learn that, although one of the world’s greatest cookbook authors died in 1992, a new book of her work has been published.

The intriguing title, “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” begs investigation.
“Along with M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child,” the publishers begin, “Elizabeth David changed the way we think about and prepare our food. Her nine books, written with impeccable wit and considerable brilliance, helped educate the taste (and taste buds) of the postwar generation. Insisting on authentic recipes and fresh ingredients, she taught that food need not be complicated to be delicious…”

Elizabeth David, they explain, was a very private person who seldom gave interviews. However, a 1984 collection of her essays, entitled “AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE” greatly revealed Elizabeth David to her readers and is now considered the best food book written in the 20th century. Now, nearly 20 years later, comes the sequel to that book.

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” contains work covering four decades. Included is a considerable amount of material previously unpublished, found in her own files or contributed by friends to whom she had given recipes or to whom she had sent letters.
Jill Norman, Elizabeth David’s editor and friend for over 25 years is now the literary trustee of Elizabeth David’s estate. She was responsible for the posthumous publishing of “HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS” and then persuaded many of Elizabeth David’s friends to contribute notes on their favorite pieces for the anthology “SOUTH WIND THROUGH THE KITCHEN”.

In the introduction to “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” Jill explains, “in the early eighties, Elizabeth and I spent many very agreeable hours selecting the articles which appeared in her first anthology, “AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE”, published in 1984.
The kitchen in her house in Halsey Street may have been crammed with utensils of all sorts, but bookcases and shelves took up every wall in the other rooms and corridors overflowing with her substantial library of cookery, history, travel and reference books, and numerous files and folders of assorted papers”. (Be still my heart!).
Their routine, she explains, was to take a number of files each, select the pieces each found most stimulating, most expressive of the pleasures of good food, and likely still to appear to readers, and then to compare notes. It was, Jill says, “one of the most enjoyable editorial tasks I have ever undertaken. The articles were a pleasure to read, and Elizabeth’s reminiscences about the research and writing of many of them often kept us talking until late at night…”

In the end, they discovered they had too much material and decided to put some pieces aside for a later volume. “This, at last,” Jill writes, “is that volume: during the last years of her life, most of Elizabeth’s energy went into gathering material for “HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS” which was finished after her death and published in 1994”

“Elizabeth,” Jill says, “always read widely in early cookery books in English, French and Italian and enjoyed trying out their recipes. Many of those which she adapted from well-known English writers have appeared in her English books…”

“During the 25 years I worked with Elizabeth,” writes her friend and editor, “she was constantly experimenting and trying out new dishes, sometimes for a book, sometimes because a food she or one of her friends particularly liked was in season, or because there was a dish she wanted to explore more thoroughly. When she was satisfied with the recipe and it was typed in its final form, it was her custom to give copies, usually signed and dated, to friends. Many subsequently appeared her later books but others which did not are included here. The folders from her house yielded many unpublished recipes, and occasionally accompanying articles….

With few exceptions,” says Jill, “none of the material in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” has appeared in book form before…”

She further explains that Elizabeth recipes were written as a text to be read, not, as is currently the norm, a list of ingredients in the order to be used followed by a list of instructions.

The essays in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” are charming and witty, and provide more than a glimpse into the world of Elizabeth David, a woman whose life would have been fascinating even if she had not embarked on cooking and writing about it!

I was especially intrigued with what Elizabeth David had to say about making stocks and broths. This is something I am personally acquainted with, having recently turned my attention to making my own stocks and broths. (The major drawback, when someone wants to know how you made this soup…is that you’ll never have this recipe again—much of what goes into my vegetable stock depends on the vegetables in my refrigerator (or what is in season and growing in our garden) at the time I have decided to make soup. I make a ham stock out of ham bones and left over ham bits, then strain it, remove any fat, chop up the meat, and then chill it. The next day I make my bean or pea soup. But I digress).

Elizabeth David had very definite ideas about the making of stock, and thoroughly disdained the old English cookbooks, including those of Mrs. Beeton, who instructed the cook that “…everything in the way of meat, bones, gravies and flavourings (sic) that would otherwise be wasted” should go into the stock-pot. “Shank-bone of mutton, gravy left over when the half-eaten leg was moved to another dish, trimmings of beef, steak that went into a pie, remains of gravies, bacon rinds and bones, poultry giblets, bones of roast meat, scraps of vegetables…such a pot in most houses should always be on the fire.” Ew, ew!

Elizabeth responds, “Heavens, what a muddy, greasy, unattractive and quite often sour and injurious brew must have emerged from that ever-simmering tub…”

She goes on to tell her readers how to make a good stock and why a bouillon cubes don’t really make the grade. “Taking Stock” is an essay from the Spectator, published in 1960.

There are numerous essays in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” (plus over 150 recipes), and I think you will, as I did, enjoy them all. But I was most curious to learn how the title of the book came about. Sure enough, beginning on page 91 is an essay, “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE” which was, I discovered, taken from a Williams-Sonoma booklet published in 1975.

Elizabeth tells the story of Joseph Nollekens, an 18th century English sculptor who was famous for his portrait busts of famous men and women of his day. While Mrs. Nollekens had the peculiar habit of scrounging free spices from the grocer, her husband filched nutmeg from the dinner table of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Mrs. Nollekens, when she shopped for tea and sugar, would always request, just as she was ready to leave the store, to have either a clove or a bit of cinnamon to take away an unpleasant taste in her mouth—but was never seen to actually put it into her mouth. Between the two of them, they managed to accumulate a little stock of spices – free.

Elizabeth goes on to provide an essay on nutmeg, which was enormously popular in the 18th century. “It was a civilised fad,” she writes, “that eighteenth-century love of portable nutmeg graters for the dining-room, and the drawing room hot drinks, and for travelling. I see no reason why w shouldn’t revive it. It is far from silly to carry a little nutmeg box and grater around in one’s pocket. In London restaurants, such a piece of equipment comes in handy. Here, even in Italian restaurants, I find it necessary to ask for nutmeg to grate on to my favourite plain pasta with butter and Parmesan, and for leaf spinach as well…?”

She continues with a bit of history on nutmeg and explains the difference between nutmeg and mace. “Mace,” writes Elizabeth, “is a part of the same fruit as nutmeg and has a similar aroma, but coarser, less sweet and more peppery…”

Elizabeth would be pleased to learn, I think, that I have whole nutmeg and a nutmeg grater in my kitchen cupboard. I would have never thought to take it with me to a restaurant, though.

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” is utterly delightful and charming, written in Elizabeth David’s unique style. Compiled by Jill Norman, it was published by Viking in 2000. The price is $29.95.

Anyone who enjoys “reading cookbooks the way other people read novels” (how often have we heard that!) will be sure to enjoy this delightful book.

*I checked with Amazon and there are dozens of Elizabeth David’s books available, both new and used. The lowest price for “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” is under $1.00 preowned. A new copy is available for $12.98.

A copy of “WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE” is available 39cents for preowned copy available at this time on Amazon.com. (plus $3.99 shipping charges for pre-owned titles) But don’t overlook Barnes & Noble’s website or sites like Alibris.com when you are searching for particular titles.

And Oh! Be still my heart! Released March 1, 2011, “AT ELIZABETH DAVID’S TABLE; CLASSIC RECIPES AND TIMELESS KITCHEN WISDOM” by Elizabeth David, Rick Rodgers and Ruth Reichl. (Rick Rodgers and Ruth Reichl are both well known cookbook authors. Ruth Reichl was the editor of “Gourmet” magazine before it closed its doors but is now devoting her time to writing; She is the author of RUTH REICHL, MY KITCHEN YEAR, published in 2015).

Elizabeth David is the author of the following:

*MEDITERRANEAN FOOD, 1950
*FRENCH COUNTRY COOKING, 1951
*ITALIAN FOOD, 1954
*SUMMER COOKING, 1955
*FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING, 1960
*SPICES, SALT AND AROMATICS IN THE ENGLISH KITCHEN, 1970
*ENGLISH BREAD AND YEAST COOKERY, 1977
*AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE, 1984

OTHER POSTHUMOUS PUBLICATIONS:

*HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS, 1994
*SOUTH WIND THROUGH THE KITCHEN: THE BEST OF ELIZABETH DAVID, 1998
*ELIZABETH DAVID’S CHRISTMAS, 2003
*ELIZABETH DAVID’S CLASSICS (Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, Summer Cooking) 1980
*AT ELIZABETH DAVID’S TABLE: HER VERY BEST EVERYDAY RECIPES, 2010

You may also wish to find a copy of “ELIZABETH DAVID: A BIOGRAPHY, by Lisa Chaney.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook reading!
–Sandra Lee Smith

**
WHO WAS COOKBOOK AUTHOR/RECIPE COLUMNIST MARY MARTENSEN?

Originally posted 2011

Sometimes it simply starts with an old recipe card or a clipping with a name on it and you aren’t always sure where on earth you found it, especially if the clipping is very old and yellowed. Well, I do collect old recipe boxes, preferably with old recipe collections intact and this is sometimes where interesting clippings, or clippings pasted onto 3×5” cards turn up. Such is the case with the first recipe I found of Mary Martensen’s. It was a clipping pasted on a 3×5” card with directions for making pea soup.

From the introduction in one of her cookbooks, we learn that Mrs. Martensen was a graduate in Home Economics and Dietetics, having studied at the Boston School of Domestic Science, Simmons College and the Teachers College of Columbia University. Her first experience was as Director of Home Economics for the schools of Concord, New Hampshire. While there she also conducted courses in dietetics at the Concord City Hospital each week, and in Home Economics at Mount St. Mary’s Academy at Hookset, New Hampshire.

Following this, Mrs. Martensen became dietitian at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, leaving this position for the Home Economics Department of “a great packing company” (presumably Armour founded in 1867 by the Armour brothers following the Civil War). Here, in four seasons Mrs. Martensen conducted newspaper cooking schools in thirty-five states, lectured to women’s clubs in Chicago and its suburbs, and contributed to the household page edited in her department. She also prepared many recipe booklets, among them “Sixty Ways to Serve Ham” which I believe was compiled for Armour around 1935. During the last 2 years of this period Mrs. Martensen was the directing head of the department. Then followed five years as head of a Home Economics Department which she established for one of the largest baking powder companies in America. (No indication is given for the name of the baking company. Royal, Clabber Girl, and Rumford were three popular baking powder companies getting a strong foothold in the food industry in the late 1800s, early 1900s, however.)
In January, 1927, Mrs. Martensen established a Home Economics Department for “a large western newspaper” where she remained until she was selected by the Chicago Evening American for the position she was holding at the time her first cookbook was published–not counting pamphlets or booklets she may have authored prior to this. [I’m thinking that Mrs. Mary Martensen would have given Ida Bailey Allen a run for her money, as a contemporary in the 1920s writing for food manufacturers, conducting radio recipe programs and then branching out to compile cookbooks.]

Within a few months, the auditorium originally fitted for the newspaper Home Ec department of the Chicago Evening American had to be enlarged to double its size and capacity. Three courses of lessons were given in the first year of the department’s operation, with a total attendance of 6,600.

Editorially, Mrs. Martensen conducted a daily column in the Chicago Evening American, which was amplified to four columns on Mondays and Fridays, and a full page every Saturday in the American Home Journal. Her material was illustrated on Mondays and Saturdays with photographs and sketches made in her department of special dishes and table settings created in the department (The recipe page that a Sandychatter subscriber sent to me was published on a Thursday in the Chicago Herald American and along with recipes for strawberry chiffon pie and pineapple cheese pie, featured lovely illustrations – even in black and white—of a coconut wreath circling the pineapple cheese pie and another illustration of an ice cream pie.) And, apparently, at some point in time, Mrs. Martensen’s recipe columns were picked up by King Syndicate for release to other newspapers throughout the USA.

In the department’s first year, over 21,000 letters were received from readers and over 4,200 telephone calls responded to. Twenty five lectures before women’s clubs, farmers’ institutes, parent-teacher associations and high school classes were conducted. In addition to all this, Mrs. Martensen conducted weekly radio talks.
Mary Martensen was writing a column for the Herald American newspaper in 1950. I believe she was writing newspaper columns in the 1930s and 1940s as well. She also wrote “Mrs. Mary Martensen’s Recipes Cookbook/Chicago American” which I would SWEAR that I have, but to date have been unable to find. This was a newspaper-sponsored cookbook for the Chicago American.

Prior to this, the author worked for the meatpacker Armour Company* where she authored the popular, “Sixty ways to Serve Ham”

*Sandy cooknote: The information I discovered online about the Armour Company and the many different products they manufactured nearly sent me into a tailspin, wanting to read and learn more about Armour—I had to force myself to stay on track with Mary Martensen.

In 1933, Mrs. Martensen wrote “Century of Progress Cookbook*” – so far I have not been able to lay my hands on any of Mary’s cookbooks. However, any number of her newspaper columns have survived over the decades. In fact, a Sandychatter subscriber bought some perfume bottles and found a 1950 sheet of newspaper with Mary Martensen’s Strawberry Chiffon Pie and Pineapple Cheese Pie featured on that date, June 22, 1950 – and sent a copy of it to me.

In addition to its widely syndicated Sunday magazine “The American Weekly”, the Journal-American had a Saturday supplement called Home Magazine, as well. Mary’s columns appeared in this newspaper supplement as well.
Zirta Green, who balanced a career with motherhood and home long before it became fashionable was a test kitchen chef for the Chicago Herald American and Chicago Tribune newspapers for their cooking and recipe columns from 1953-1966, and later for the Mary Martensen TV cooking show, broadcasted on WBKB Chicago, ABC-TV, around 1954. (*This short paragraph about Mrs. Green was the only indication I discovered about Mary Martensen having a TV cooking s how –back in the day, long before TV cooking shows were so popular!

An illustration/portrait of Mary Martensen was published in her first cookbook; it shows a very pretty blonde haired woman, nicely dressed, with a sweet smile.

Not much more is known about Mary Martensen – although if anyone reading this knows more, I would love to hear from you. However, some of her recipes crop up if you take the time to surf Google patiently. The first one I am offering is the recipe I originally found on a recipe card.

To make MARY’S SPLIT PEA SOUP you will need:
1 cup dried split peas
2 ½ quarts cold water
1 pint milk
½ onion
2” cube fat salt pork
3 TBSP butter or margarine
2 TBSP flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Pick over peas and soak several hours in cold water to cover. Drain, add cold water, pork and onion. Simmer 3 or 4 hours or until soft. Put through a sieve*. Add butter and flour and seasonings blended together. Dilute with the milk, adding more milk if necessary. Note the water in which a ham has been cooked may be used. Omit the salt.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you don’t have a sieve, you can blend the peas in your blender but I would suggest cooling it down somewhat, first, and only do half a blender-full at a time so it doesn’t splash. When I make pea soup I like to cook the peas and whatever other ingredients (carrots, onion) -except meat – and blend it in my blender to make it smooth. Then add some leftover ham if you want it in your soup. We like very thick soups, more like chowders. What I usually do is cook a hambone and then set it aside. Use the stock from the hambone then to cook the peas. (And if you take the time to chill the stock, you can easily remove the fat that rises to the top and solidifies). While the peas are cooking, cool the hambone and remove all the bits of meat to put back into the pot later. Ok, it’s a little more work this way–but you will have a fine pot of soup. (Some things do take longer – but I guarantee, if you cook a hambone and use those scraps of meat – you will have a delicious stock AND most flavorful meat. It will beat a package of pre-diced ham bits from the supermarket hands down!)

Here is Mary’s recipe for SUNSHINE CAKE, 1946
1 cup sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks, beaten
7 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon any desired flavoring (I recommend lemon extract)
Preparation Instructions

Sift the flour once, measure and resift twice with the salt. Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, but not dry. Add the sugar gradually and beat until the mixture holds in soft peaks. Fold in the beaten egg yolks and flavoring. Fold in the flour gently but thoroughly to avoid breaking air cells in the egg mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased ten-inch tube pan and bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for about 50 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven and invert for one hour, or until cool. When cool, frost with a thin coating of confectioners’ sugar, or sprinkle with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

MARY MARTENSEN’S POPCORN BALLS, 1946
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark corn syrup
3 quarts salted popped corn

Combine molasses, corn syrup and vinegar in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until a small amount of syrup will form a hard ball when dropped into cold water. This is about 270 degrees if tested with a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat, add the butter and pour over the popped corn, stirring only enough to mix. Form into balls with the hands, using as little pressure as possible. Makes 16 to 18 balls.

(Sandy’s Cooknote *I can’t wait to make this. I buy a big bottle of molasses from a warehouse-type of supermarket in Palmdale, called Smart & Final because I love to make molasses cookies—and I like adding a small amount to the white Karo syrup when I am making caramel corn).

From a Sandychatter reader: “I have my grandmother’s collection of recipes and cookbook. In there I found 2 pages of dumpling recipes from the Chicago Herald American, Home Economics Department, Mary Martensen, Director. They are hand typed and the photo copied from some sort of note book then mailed to my grandmother. I was interested so I did a little research. The Newspaper was the Chicago Evening American from 1914-1939 then it became the Chicago Herald-American 1939-1953 then the Chicago American from 1953-1969.” Tina Aiello Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(*Sandy’s Cooknote: Tina, if you happen to read this, would you share some of your grandmother’s recipes with me?. When Mary’s first cookbook was published some pages were deliberately left blank just so someone could add their own recipes or clippings.)

MARY MARTENSEN’S CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preparation Instructions
Cream the shortening, add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate which has been melted and cooled, and blend well.

Sift the flour once, measure and resift twice with the soda and salt. Add to the batter alternately with the buttermilk, beating until smooth after each addition. Add vanilla. Fill twelve cupcake pans which have been greased, two thirds full with the batter. Bake in a 350 degree oven, for about 20 minutes or until done.
When cupcakes are cool, with a small sharp pointed knife cut a cone-shape from the top of each. Remove and fill hollowed out portion with slightly sweetened whipped cream. If desired, a larger hollow can be made in the cupcake. Also, ice cream can be used in place of whipped cream to fill the hollow centers. Place top (which was removed from cupcake) on top of whipped cream and pour chocolate sauce over the top.
To make the chocolate sauce: Combine in a saucepan, one square unsweetened chocolate, cut in pieces, one cup sugar, two tablespoons corn syrup, one tablespoon butter and one-third cup hot water. Blend well and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to boiling point, then cook for five minutes. Cool slightly and add a few grains of salt and one half teaspoon vanilla. Serve warm or cold. Contributed by
MARY MARTENSEN, 1946

From another Sandychatter reader, Rebecca Christian “I was interested in the Mary Martensen recipe. I worked as a test kitchen home economist in the test kitchen of Chicago’s American newspaper from 1967-1970. Mary Martensen was the nom de plume of the food editor who at that time was Dorothy Thompson. We had about 35,000 recipes in our files and they are still some of my best ones. Wish I had those files now!
Rebecca also wrote “Chicago’s American was eliminated as the afternoon paper of the Chicago Tribune around 1970 or 71. Don’t know if the Tribune kept the recipes or not. There are Chicago Tribune cookbooks but I don’t think they had any American recipes. Each paper owned by the Tribune as well as the Chicago Daily News had test kitchens at the time. We tested every recipe that went in the American. Those days are long gone! Becky.

(*Sandy’s cooknote – Oh, Rebecca – what wouldn’t we all give to have Mary’s recipes today! I’m pea-green with envy that you had the opportunity to work in the test kitchen of Chicago’s American newspaper from 1967-1970—I was busy giving birth during most of those years. Lol).

*Sandy’s cooknote – there are a lot of gaps in my story about Mary Martensen. I don’t know where she grew up or where she spent most of her life. I don’t know how long she lived even though we DO know that Zirta Green was a test kitchen chef of Mrs. Martensen’s who lived to the age of 97! On previous occasions when I mentioned Mary Martensen, readers responded with comments I have included in this post.

The best I can hope to achieve is more details becoming available to us – I am reminded of writing about Myra Waldo, first years ago (around 1990) when I was unable to learn ANYthing about Myra’s later life – and then years later, when I was rewriting my manuscript about Myra, I found obituary details on Google, not previously available to me. I like the idea “if you build it, they will come”

Cookbooks by Mary Martensen:

Home Canning and Freezing Book- or The Canning, Freezing, Curing & Smoking of Meat fish game – date unknown, possibly 1935
CENTURY OF PROGRESS COOKBOOK 1932
Mrs. Mary Martensen’s Recipes Cookbook Chicago American”
SIXTY WAYS TO SERVE HAM, Armour Ham, 1935
RECIPES FOR WILD GAME 1935?

(Sandy’s final cooknote: If anyone knows more about Mary’s cookbooks, such as dates of publication, or any other food editors writing under Mary Martensen’s name—or her other book titles please write!)
Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook collecting!

Sandy@ sandychatter

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