Category Archives: COOKBOOK REVIEWS

GYPSY FEAST BY CAROL WILSON

Many cookbooks–all worthy of my attention–are stacked alongside the computer, and I have neglected them simply because I haven’t been able to get WORD to work properly. For the past few weeks, I have been struggling to work without WORD. Then I wondered if I could type a draft on Verizon, like an email message. Why not?

One of the books that particularly captivated me is titled is GYPSY FEAST, Recipes and Culinary Traditions of the Romany People, by Carol Wilson. (Then, today, my daughter in law came to change my ink cartridges – and SHE figured out how to open a clean page in WORD for me! Voila!!)

I have good reason to be fascinated with Gypsy Feast; my older brother has often speculated that we had gypsy blood. Our paternal grandmother, Susannah Gengler Schmidt, liked nothing more than spending a Sunday aboard a street car, later a bus, with a twenty-five sent Sunday pass, to explore downtown Cincinnati–and given the opportunity to go on an annual vacation with her daughter, our Aunt Annie, and Annie’s husband Al, to Florida–and I think she was with us whenever the family took a vacation—which wasn’t often–and the car was crowded with my two parents, me, my older sister Becky, two younger brothers Biff & Bill–and Grandma.

I think my little brother Billy was small enough to squeeze in between mom and dad. (I didn’t learn until decades later that my brother Jim deliberately stayed away from home when we were going on a vacation–to escape going along–but he and I discovered our own enjoyment of taking trips in the 80s and 90s. His job took him to a number of places on the West Coast; I’d take vacation time to go along with him. We went to San Diego twice, twice to Palm Springs, to Reno once on business and another time for the USBC Bowling Tournament in Reno; we also went to Las Vegas a couple times and once to San Francisco. During those car trips we often talked about our childhood experiences–a revelation in many ways).

The relatives we spent a week with in Detroit when I was about nine or ten were cousins on Grandma’s side of the family. There was a daughter about my age, named Pat, with whom I began corresponding — she was my first penpal. I think the family may have been second cousins of my father’s. I have no memories of where they put us at night or how Pat’s mother coped with all of us at mealtimes–I vaguely remember a large pool (maybe a lake?) that we spent a day at and I remember all of us crowded in the car–my dad only owned Chevrolet four door cars back then–possibly they were roomier. And no air conditioning! My father would have loved having a RV back then!

But I digress. My brother Jim often speculated that we had Gypsy blood and even though the Romany people do not appear on the DNA results that my brother Bill obtained–the general DNA lump sum of 67% Europe, West, could very well have accounted for some gypsies.

From Gypsy Feast dust jacket, I learned that the Romany people are descendants of the ancient warrior classes of Northern India who trekked westwards around A.D. 1000. Although they were, and still often are referred to as “gypsies” their correct name is Roma. Their migration took them through Persia and Armenia, into Europe and later to the Americas. Today, the Roma live scattered throughout the world.

Roma foodways were traditionally determined by their nomadic way of life. Thus, the cuisine came to include whatever was readily available, such as wild fruits and vegetables, berries, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, and wild game. Today, few Roma continue to live as nomads and their traditional cuisine has largely been replaced by that of the mainstream society.

Gypsy Feast, the publishers write, “evokes a memorable picture of the old Romany ways, including recipes, information on feasts and celebrations, marriage and funeral customs, and a unique way of life that has almost disappeared.

Carol Wilson provides recipes that have survived the centuries, frequently undergoing adaption to meet the tastes of a particular time or place, Today, as modern life encroaches on the traditional Romany customs, the old ways of life are rapidly disappearing. Gypsy Feast records many of these fading recipes and culinary traditions. (From the dust jacket to Gypsy Feast).

And I want to say that little more than a hundred years ago, pioneers trekking from Missouri to California or Oregon, were temporarily nomads as they headed west seeking a better life and land, or for the lure of gold, often recording what meager food they might find to supplement their food supplies running desperately short–when you think of it, the development of the USA often depended on their pioneering nomad skills) I have believed for most of my adult life that I made a journey across country in the 1800s, in a previous life.

In 1961 when my then-husband along with our one year old son, drove across country in search of a better life in California. I remember staring into the sky, filled with millions of stars at night when all you could see were stars. I thought to myself “I have done this before”. It was my introduction to past lives.

Returning to GYPSY FEAST, in the preface, the author notes, “the seeds for the book were sown when I was about ten years old and even at that early age, intensely interested in food and cooking and the kinds of food that people ate and why. I was fascinated by the Romany way of life. As a child growing up in the suburbs of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, England, my friends and I watched, enthralled as the Gypsies arrived I their gaily horse-drawn and motor caravans to set up camp in a local meadow every summer….”:

Wilson writes that even though they were called gypsies, their correct name is Roma. “Rom” means in the Roman language and the word to denote people is ROMA. She explains how the Roma made money seasonally such as fruit, vegetable and hop picking. Their labor was an essential part of the local economy and every year, large numbers of Roma traveled to the same fields, orchards and farms for employment…”

Wilson also explains that “the relentless onslaught of modern technology has had an enormous effects on Romany throughout the world as modern technology encroaches on their traditional way of life, their ancient customs are in decline and in danger of being lost forever…” The integration of many Roma with non-Roma cultures has also diluted many traditional values and beliefs. Many young Roman have largely forgotten the old traditions and culture. She says that many Roma are now settled in hoses and few if any travel through the country in colorful wagons.

In the Introduction, Wilson writes that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the world population of Roma today but estimates indicate there are about twelve to fifteen million worldwide and about ten million live in Europe, with an estimated one hundred thousand living in the United Kingdom. Most Roma today live in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

Wilson notes that “a nomadic people, their gradual migration from India in the fourteenth century led them to become scattered throughout the world. The reasons for t heir exodus are unknown but their migration took them through Persia, Armenia and eventually into Europe. As they traveled they absorbed man aspects of new foreign cultures, traditions and language into their own culture…”

The appearance of the Roma caused something of a stir in the United Kingdom in the fifteenth century—their burnished copper colored skin, glossy black hair and flamboyant colorful clothes, obscure language and almost magical knowledge of herbs and plants, led them to being greeted with suspicion, even hostility wherever they traveled. Wilson writes, “their swarthy looks resulted in a general belief that they were from Turkey or Egypt, and they became known as Egyptians or Gyptians which later became Gypsies. (Interesting to learn how the world “Gypsies” evolved, isn’t it? – sls)

Some record of gypsies in Britain can be found in the early 1500s but in 1530, suspicion and fear of vagrants led Henry VIII to make it an offence to be a gypsy and ordered their departure within forty days unless they chose to abandon “their naughty, idle and ungodly life”

However, writes Wilson, by the time of Elizabeth I there was estimated to be around ten thousand Gypsies I England and although their presence was not exactly welcomed, they were accepted as part of the community.

There is a great deal more of the Introduction to be found in Gypsy Fare but if I keep going, we’ll never get to foodways of everyday life of the Roma.

In her chapter titled Everyday Life, Wilson writes that “Traditionally, eating habits of the Roma was dictated by their nomadic way of life, and their diet consisted largely of what was readily available and in season, such as wild fruits, berries, leafy plants, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, game and small mammals which were free for the taking in fields, woods, meadows and streams. Foods were also often traded along the road. Boys as well as girls were taught to cook so they would always be able to look after themselves in the wild. The value of food is difficult for us to appreciate nowadays as we are used to easily accessible to shops and stores which offer a great variety of food…”

Wilson also notes that wild foods were vital for the survival of the Roma and the people developed a phenomenal knowledge of these—which were edible, which were poisonous (even lethal) and where to find them.

Under Everyday Foods, Wilson provides recipes for Berries, sweet with nuts cherry pudding, Bread and Fruit Pudding, Damson Cobbler and others—the one I especially want to try is a recipe for Blackberry Butter. (My Oregon friends have wild blackberries galore on their property). Blackberry Tart would also be great to try.

Generally, we don’t think of flowers as being edible; Wilson notes that flowers are now enjoying something of a renaissance as a fashionable ingredient—these can be sprinkled over salads and even added to stews for their bright color and flavor. Wilson writes, in the chapter titled Edible Flowers, that the practice of using flowers in cookery is very old. Medieval monks cultivated flowers such as marigolds and lavender in their kitchen gardens, alongside herbs and vegetables—Wilson provides a detailed list of what flowers can be grown for use in cooking.

The next chapter is titled NUTS – and since I have cookbooks dedicated to various edible nuts, I’ll skip this except to note, per Wilson, the use of acorns in cooking. We know that Indian tribes used acorns (to make flour, I think) but I don’t think you see much of this in American cookery nowadays.

There are many more chapters—and recipes in Gypsy Fare—but I have written a great deal from the Introduction and this is already fairly long for a review.

I found Gypsy Feast listed on Amazon.com and Alibris.com; both have a starting price of $12.95 for either new or used copies. Amazon.com also has a Kindle edition for about $12.00. This book is valuable for historical reference as well as simply for your enjoyable reading.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

SEARCHING FOR META GIVEN…AND NOW WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY

I’ve posted this before–letters continue to come in from people all over the USA who remember Meta Given’s cookbooks with great fondness and, in some cases, are trying to find one of them. This is what I wrote:

Originally on February 14, 2011, I wrote the following blog post: “Abe of Abebooks.com asked 500 customers who owned a cookbook that had been given to them by a family member to tell the story about their handed down culinary companions. He wrote, “Those old, splattered, battered cookbooks found on kitchen shelves are also treasured family heirlooms in many cases. According to research by AbeBooks.com, Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking is the cookbook most frequently handed down through the generations. The books often spanned several generations of cooks and had huge sentimental value. In 96 per cent of the cases, a grandmother, mother and mother-in-law had handed over the book to the next generation. The books tended to have a long history within each family – 58 per cent of the cookbooks were more than 50 years old. Thirty eight per cent of the current owners said they had owned the book for more than 30 years…”

Well, recently I had the opportunity to hold in my own two hands a copy of JOY that had belonged, for decades, to my sister-in-law, Bunny Schmidt, who passed away from cancer of the esophagus in 2012, about eleven months after my partner Bob passed away from the same disease. It’s a battered and stained Joy, exactly what Abe Books was talking about. I am delivering it to my niece Leslie in a couple weeks. She is the oldest child of my brother and sister in law, Bunny.

The cookbook I grew up on, and learned to cook from, was – as I have written before in Sandychatter—an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook that I believe my mother bought for a dollar at Woolworth’s. (I now have that very cookbook, which is certainly battered, tattered and stained. Years later I searched for, and found, more pristine copies).

When I was a teenager, a copy of Meta Given’s “The Modern Family Cookbook” appeared in our family bookcase (a little cherry wood bookcase with glass doors, that my younger sister now has). I think it was a book club offering but that baffles me as neither of my parents ever joined a book club. I have a vague memory of my mother refusing to pay for it and so it languished on the family bookshelves until I began to read it and eventually claimed for my own. And, to add to the mystery, there is no indication on the inside pages of the cookbook that it was ever a book club selection. The original copyright was 1942. This edition was copyrighted by Meta Given in 1953, which sounds about right to me.

Not surprisingly, the pages most stained are those with cookie recipes on them- rocks and hermits, gum drop cookies, something called cocoa Indians, lemon drop cookies and molasses drop. My mother turned me loose in the kitchen when I was 9 or 10 years old and most of the time, I baked cookies. I really wasn’t. interested in cooking anything else at the time.

I now own a copy of the original 1942 “Modern Family Cookbook” which is somewhat thicker and heavier than the 1953 edition. In 1947, Meta compiled “Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking which is in two volumes. I had to laugh at myself; I thought I only had a copy of Volume I but when I began going through some of my old cookbooks in our new built garage library, I found a copy of Volume II.

None of my copies of Meta Given books have dust jackets and therein is the crux of the matter – so often, biographical information can be found on the dust jackets of cookbooks. I began a Google search:

Margi Shrum of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the following in April, 2009 “I spoke last week to a group of parents of special-needs children, and the conversation turned to old cookbooks. Egads, I love them. My favorite is one my late mother used, “Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking,” which seems to have been first published in 1947. I have the 1955 edition. It’s chock-a-block with antiquated stuff. I never, and you shouldn’t, use the techniques for canning or preserving foods in these old books, and I am never going to make Muskrat Fricassee (calls for one dressed muskrat. If I could picture what a muskrat looked like I’d picture it dressed in top hat and tails. Carrying a cane). But there’s also a lot of useful stuff in this book, which is in two volumes and has 1,500 pages. I’ve tried loosely over the years to find information about the author but to little avail. She was of some note in the 1940s through the early ’60s, if the popularity of her cookbooks is any indication. Her first was the “The Modern Family Cookbook,” published in 1942.”

Margie adds, “The encyclopedia’s foreword says Ms. Given grew up on a ‘Missouri hill farm’ learning to cook with the limited foodstuffs available to her. She then studied home economics and became involved in developing and testing recipes, and in writing about nutrition, shopping and kitchen equipment. Her foreword to my edition — purchased on eBay and immediately chewed on by my golden retriever puppy, who smelled food — was written from Orlando in 1955….”

May I add that the foreword also states that Meta Given..” had good food (growing up) but little variety. The women were forced to be resourceful in presenting the same simple foods in a variety of interesting ways. She watched food grow on her family’s farm and worked to help it develop into a sound and abundant harvest. She learned to store and preserve a summer’s plenty to last through the winter months. And she acquired from her parents a deep appreciation for the goodness of earth’s bounty…”

Sure enough, Volume II of Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking” offers a recipe for Muskrat Fricasse—as well as recipes for antelope, deer and beaver. It also has a recipe for Hasenpfeffer which I won’t ever be trying. Hasenpfeffer was the bane of my childhood. If you came home from school and smelled it cooking, you knew we were having it for dinner and there was no escape.

Also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at “evisceration and removal of feathers, removal of fur….” But you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection, these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask? I wasn’t afraid to ask—I just never wanted to KNOW).

Elsewhere on Google, someone wrote, “My mother was only 17 years old when she got married. Somewhere in that time, she was given a special two volume cookbook set called Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking. It was a true cookbook of the 50’s, offering advice so basic, the author must have assumed many of her readers couldn’t boil water. Until Julia Child altered my mother’s views on food, Meta Given’s was the only cookbook in our home. The recipes were so simple and straightforward, I learned to cook from them at a very young age. By the time I was nine years old I could make real fudge, basic one-bowl cakes, quick breads, and peanut butter cookies all by myself. I also learned to make a pumpkin yeast bread when I was slightly older. Over the years my mother’s Meta Given’s cookbook disintegrated into a pile of loose pages. However, I was able to track down a used set several years ago. Although most of the recipes seem outdated, it was quite an experience just holding the cookbook while childhood memories rushed back…”

The following single line clue was also found on Google: “When not penning cookbooks, Ms. Given—I don’t think she’d approve the title, but an extensive Google search fails to reveal her marital status— taught Home Ec at the University of Chicago in the post-World War II years…”

Maybe Meta Given tired of teaching in Chicago and returned to her home in Missouri. We may never know- but if you are interested in finding her books, there are umpteen sites to choose from as you browse through Google.
I have the following:

• The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942
• Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Volumes 1 and II published in 1947
• The Modern Family Cook Book, published in 1953

As well as the following, which I do not have:

• The Art of Modern Cooking and Better Meals: recipes for every occasion
• The Modern Family Cook Book New Revised Edition
• The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given 1968
• The Wizard Modern Family Cookbook
• Delicious Dairy Dishes

On August 10, 2011 someone named Don posted the following comment:

Hi Sandy, Please let me know if you ever find out what happened to Meta Given. I have been going through some old family letters and it turns out that my great aunt, Helen Swadey, was her assistant in the 40′s and 50′s. She would help with the writing and arranging the final meals for the photo shoot. Thanks! Don

I sent Don the following message: “Hi, Don – how interesting that your great aunt worked for Meta Given! I HAVEN’T learned anything more than what I wrote but maybe someone will read this and write, if they know anything else about her. Oddly enough I have had emails from a number of people, in response to other cookbook authors I have written about – so there’s always a possibility that someone will see the inquiry and shed some light on this prolific and excellent cookbook author. Now, that would have been a job I’d have loved – assistant to Meta Given! Let me know if you learn anything else.

On February 2, someone named Brenda sent the following message to my blog:
I am preparing a Birthday Party for my mother who turns 80 this July. We are having a picnic theme, and we are replacing my mother’s Meta Given Cookbooks with a better set. The sisters of the family are HUGE fans of Meta Given, and I am trying to find anything out about her to have it framed for my mother to put in her kitchen. She raised all of us girls using this cookbook and we all have copies!! I know I am a little late adding this comment, but can you or anyone help me out? Sincerely, Brenda

On February 22, 2012, Karen wrote the following message: I had to comment because one of my earliest memories of Thanksgiving is my mother and grandmother quoting Meta Given about making turkey gravy: “You can only make so much fine favored gravy.” I haven’t even looked at the recipe in years, but must admit that I do know how to make fine flavored gravy and I don’t even eat gravy! Thanks Meta. I have my grandmother’s copy. My mother still has and uses her own copy. My oldest daughter has her other grandmother’s 2 book set. Over the years, I have managed to collect one of the single book editions for my sister and two copies of the 2 book sets for my sisters-in-law. Just recently, I finally got the single book edition for my youngest daughter. We are a family devoted to Meta Given, which is why I found your blog. I was looking for some information about her and started to do some research. So, if you find out anything else about her, I’d be delighted to hear it and then I will in turn share it with the rest of the family. Thanks!

On February 25 2012, Neil sent the following message: I’m a 44-year old single guy who grew up with a mother who occasionally whipped out this tattered, index-missing BIBLE. I have no other name for it… other then the BIBLE that was in our kitchen. Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. The version I’m most familiar with is the single volume gem published in 1955 on its EIGHTEENTH printing (35,000 copies). My mom was inspired by the “White Sauce” in that book – creamed onions were a Thanksgiving tradition. Like most people who are reading this, when I finally understood the power of Google I FINALLY had a chance to have my own copy of this piece of history – it’s WAY more than a cookbook and we all know it. I paid almost $200 because I just had to have it. Since then I purchased a “backup” copy – you know… just in case. That one is in a safe room where the temperature and humidity is just right. A few years ago I stumbled upon a dessert recipe that blew me away – Lemon Chiffon Custard on page 746 in my book. “A puffy cake-like topping and a creamy custard bottom layer.” OMG”

On May 2, 2013, Janice King Smith sent the following message: “According to census reports she (Meta Given) returned to her hometown of Bourbios, MO, and later relocated to Florida. Being from the general area, I was happy to have The Modern Family in my collection and enjoy seeing the differences between how she prepared the meal versus what we were taught by my grandma who lived during the same time frame literally 3-4 hours away from each other.”

On May 24, 2012 Anna wrote the following message: I am doing a little research on Meta Given… My Mother’s maiden name was Given. I was told Meta Given was a Great Aunt of mine from Missouri that wrote cookbooks, and I have all copies of her cookbooks, and learned to cook from them. The books I have were been passed down through the years from my grandmother..Ruby Given, to my mother Anna Jane Given, and now to me. I will be passing them on someday to my children and grandchildren!

On June 22, 2012 Gil wrote the following: I have the 1953 version of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook. I turn to this book when I need to know how I should cook a vegetable that won’t be listed in most cookbooks and I have more than 100. I am going to cook turnips today and I want to know a cooking time. I recently checked in this book for a cooking time for beets. I have two of these books but one is so battered that I am afraid to open it.
Gil Wilbur Claymont,DE.

Now, many months later, after years of searching and speculating about the unknown later life of Meta Given, my new-found friend, Bonnie Slotnick, who owns a cookbook store in New York** (see address at end of article) managed to unearth information about Meta that no one has been able to discover.

It turns out that food writer Jane Nickerson***, writing for the Lakeland Ledger in 1981, interviewed Meta and in an article that appeared in the December 10,m 1981 Lakeland Ledger food column, discovered “the rest of the story” –the details no one knew about Meta Given once she disappeared from the cookbook publishing limelight.

By Jane Nickerson, writing for the Lakeland Ledger on December 10, — wrote the following: “A few lines the other day in this paper reporting the death of Lakelander Meta Given in no way hinted the professionalism of that nonogenarian, [sic] author of the monumental, two-volume cookbook ‘Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.’

That brilliant work, published in 1947 by J.G. Ferguson and later distributed by Doubleday, contained in its 1969 edition 1,665 pages, 71 tables and charts, 230 photographs in black-and-white and color, 2,906 tested recipes and more than 200 drawings. Considerably in excess of a million copies are now in use.

Born and reared on a farm in the Ozarks, where, as she once put it, ‘my parents had no money,’ Miss Given remained throughout a vigorous life essentially modest and straightforward.

At 15, she had finished her own education, or so she thought, and was teaching in a rural grade school. Later she instructed high-school students in physics, chemistry and agriculture.

But she began to feel she needed more training. In 1916, she enrolled in the University of Chicago to study a subject still in its infancy at that time—home economics. She went on to work for the Evaporated milk Association, developing recipes for that trade group. Then came a stint as food editor of the Chicago Tribune”.

“But the Depression came along,” Meta told Jane in a 1975 interview, “and in 1931, the Tribune fired me. By that time I had my own test kitchen and staff and was also doing freelance work in recipe development and food photography for Kraft and other companies.

“I couldn’t fire my staff. But the jobs that came along were spasmodic, and so to keep my people busy, I started them working on a household cookbook.” In 1942, J. G. Ferguson, a Chicago printer whom Miss Given had consulted, published the “Modern Family Cookbook.” From it, the encyclopedia developed.

A heart attack in the late 1940s persuaded Miss Given she should pursue a quieter life. The tall, spare, broad-shouldered woman, with a coronet of white hair, wound up her hectic career in Chicago, and retired to Florida, where, among other things, she grew oak leaf lettuce and developed recipes for pies using loquats and other local fruits.

Her inborn modesty made her hard to interview. Among the first “career women” in this century, she wore her accomplishments lightly, and could not understand why anyone should be especially interested in recording them.

This article was unearthed for us by Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks 163 West Tenth Street New York, New York 10014-3116 USA –so if you are searching for your mother or grandmother’s tried-and true-cookbook you might want to contact Bonnie.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

UPDATE! May 10, 2015

If you have ever read the above, which was posted on my blog February 11, 2011, under the title “Searching for Meta Given”, you will no doubt notice the many readers who have written about Meta Given – – mostly people who had her cookbooks or were looking for them.

*why the red italics? Because, I thought—it was because Meta couldn’t bring herself to fire her staff during a particular stringent period, she put them to work on a cookbook – a cookbook which turned out to be the nucleus of the two volume cookbooks published in 1947, that people are searching for still, today. Some of whom are paying big bucks for! But I get it. As all of you know, you who have some of Meta Given’s cookbooks—they are timeless, recipes you can follow from start to stop without wondering if it will turn out right. And there is hardly a topic that Meta doesn’t write about!

**Looking for a particular old cookbook? Contact Bonnie Slotnick at bonnieslotnickbooks@earthlink.net or at 163 W. 10th Street, NY NY 10014-3116

***Jane Nickerson, food writer for the Lakeland Ledger also wrote a cookbook about Florida food and recipes. Jane passed away March 2, 2000. She was employed as a food writer from 1973 to 1988 for the Lakeland Ledger.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith with a special thank you to everyone who ever wrote to request or provide information. A special thanks to Bonnie Slotnick whose culinary sleuthing provided “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

=–Sandra Lee Smith

FEAST OF EDEN

Regional winner of the 1994 Tabasco Cookbook Award is a beautifully composed cookbook titled FEAST OF EDEN, from the Junior League of Monterey County, California.The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc., is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.
The Junior League of Monterey County, Inc. reaches out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism. Currently there are 140 active members and 302 sustaining members of the Junior League.

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

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

I visited the Monterey Peninsula for the very first time in 1979 with a girlfriend who had spent summer vacations there as a very young child. We wandered the cobblestone streets of Carmel, with its old-fashioned street lights, meandering in and out of hundreds of cubby-hole shops and stores. We dined in tiny little restaurants, some with fireplaces, and sometimes at little street-side tables, people-watching while we dined on shrimp or pasta.
The village of Carmel is indescribable. It has been, for decades, an artists’ colony, but it is also a great tourist attraction, and once you visit, you will know why. I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to live there.

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

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

I can easily visualize, when – in the Introduction – the compilers of FEAST
OF EDEN tell us “Where the Santa Lucia Mountains separate the fields of Salinas from the Pacific Ocean, lies the garden paradise of Monterey County, California….life in Monterey County is highly textured. From the rocky cliffs of the agriculture fields of Salinas, to the thatched roofs of story book Carmel, to the diamond sparkle of the aquamarine waters of Pebble Beach..”
Accompanying a rich array of recipes which range from the elegant–Custard Baked French Toast…Spicy Grilled London Broil…Crab Cakes with Charon* sauce, to the sublime—Baked Salmon with Tomato, Cucumber and Basil, Scallop Lasagna, or Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake…are colorful vignettes of life in Monterey county, which will enable you to understand a bit my love of this particular region in California. (*Charon Sauce is made with egg yolks, lemon juice and fresh Tarragon. I’m guessing it is closely related to Hollandaise sauce but with the addition of Tarragon.

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

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

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

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

SANDY’S COOKNOTE: The above was written for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, probably in 1994 or 1995. When the cookbook was first published in 1994, it sold for $19.95. It is available on Amazon.com new starting at 1 CENT & UP for a pre-owned copy and new for $3.92 and u. Remember that purchases from private vendors always carry a $3.99 shipping & handling charge.)

Since 1994, I don’t remember how many more trips Bob & I would make to Monterey. Once, we made the trip in a Chinook I had bought, and we camped in Carmel Valley. It was our favorite place to visit until Bob could no longer drive and a three hour trip was about the most I could handle—then we discovered San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Pismo Beach. Now those are my favorite towns for short vacation trips.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS

BY Amy Jo Ehman

In the Foreword to OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS, written by Bill Waiser, (author of SASKATCHEWAN: A NEW HISTORY and numerous other books, is a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan. Waiser starts out the Foreword with a quote from someone named Dan Thompson, who described the first year on the family homestead in Saskatchewan in 1911, “I used to get so hungry I would eat grass.”

Writes Professor Waiser, “Thompson’s lament was not uncommon. Homesteading for many settlers, especially for those living in isolated areas was an impoverishing experience. While the early 20th century marked the beginning of remarkable technological innovation and steady improvement in Canadian daily life, those in pioneer farm districts seemed to have stepped back in time…”

The Professor explains why: “Since it took several years before the crops provided decent income, homesteaders had to become virtually self-sufficient, learn to live a simpler life by making do with little. Hardship and privation were common.
Settlers faced the double challenge of brining the land under cultivation and trying to survive in the meantime. And survival took valuable time and energy away from other activities.
Before breaking a single acre, homesteaders had to find a reliable source of drinking water, build a shelter and put in a garden.

This last challenge—feeding themselves—has been largely ignored by prairie historians…”

“And yet,” writes Professor Waiser, “It was one of the most basic of human needs and took precedence over other homesteading tasks if settlers were to stave off possible hunger…many did not bring with them enough provisions and often had to make do with what they had.

Amy Jo Ehman tells this story and much more in this fascinating account of the role that food has played in the history of the region…”

“Some of the recipes,” says Professor Waiser, “including the preparation were based on age-old customs and traditions that people brought with them—it was part of their cultural DNA….other cooks took advantage of local resources—or because of the lack of ingredients, were flexible, if not inventive, in what they put on the dinner table…”

He says that what becomes readily apparent in reading these recipes is that there was no such thing as standard fare. People in Saskatchewan enjoyed an eclectic mix of tastes and flavors. At the same time there were certain comfort foods that enjoyed widespread popularity . The cookbook contains old and new recipes, something for everyone; recipes range from Baked Beans to Boiled Raisin Cake, Chicken Paprikash (one of my favorites) to Latkes and Lazy Cabbage Rolls, from making a Sourdough Starter to Watermelon pickles – and much more.

Professor Waiser writes, “Amy Jo Ehman is to be applauded not only for bringing these past recipes together in a single volume but also for putting the province’s food history into perspective in an engaging and entertaining style…”

There is something to be said about collecting cookbooks; to the uninitiated, a cookbook is simply a collection of recipes. Some cookbook authors wrote only one cookbook (i.e., Joy of Cooking) and created life-long checks in the mail (in much the same way that movie stars receive residual checks)—perhaps in the same way that Margaret Mitchell wrote GONE WITH THE WIND. Mitchell spent over a decade writing GWTW which turned out to be a best seller and then went on to become the movie of the century. Who doesn’t remember Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, delivering the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – given another place and time, Margaret Mitchell might have gone on to write the Gone with the Wind Cookbook”

But I didn’t sit down to write about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind today – I began thinking about all the many unique cookbooks that someone somewhere was inspired to put together. I’ve written about some of these unique cookbooks before on this blog—and I could spend the rest of my life writing about a lot of other ones—but today I want to tell you about a wonderful historical cookbook with the title OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS by Amy Jo Ehman, published in 2014.

To be perfectly honest, I would never have learned about OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS if not for my penpal Doreen, who lives in Saskatchewan and has been one of my Canadian penpals since 2006. (My other Canadian penpal, Sharon, was living in Niagara Falls, Canada, when we first met in 2008 and was a perfect hostess when I went to visit her in 2009)

I met Doreen and her husband, Harv, also in 2008 and again when they were back in my neck of the woods in 2011. What might have been chance meetings has turned into a triangle of three deep friendships. I was charmed to receive OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS because I sort of doubt Doreen would have looked twice at a cookbook before meeting me.

When I was a teenager taking American History and World History classes, I loathed history—but as a young adult I became fascinated with American pioneer history – and one thing tends to lead to another – American pioneers led me to a fascination for the women who traveled across the Oregon trail and what they did to survive. What I have discovered in recent years is that American pioneer history is not unlike Canadian pioneer history. On both sides of the border, in the 1700s and 1800s, pioneering also meant often going hungry. Or—as I have heard—“making do or doing without”.

Artist Paul Kane, in his memoir “Wanderings of an Artist” writes about his adventures traveling from Toronto to Fort Edmonton and the west coast, and enjoying meals provided by native hunters- having antelope, deer, bison and grizzly bear. He mentions roasted bear paw and sampling moose nose which I was intrigued to learn because I read about roasted bear paw and jellied moose nose in some of my old Alaskan cookbooks which leads one to wonder which came first – Alaskan Eskimos or the Aboriginal people of the Cree, Blackfoot or Assiniboine.
“As long as bison were plentiful”, writes Ehman, “the aboriginal people and newcomers ate well. This meat-based diet was supplemented with fresh and dried fish, a variety of berries and prairie plants such as cattails, tender wild greens and the ‘prairie potato’, a root that was dried, pounded and used as flour before wheat flour arrived with the fur trade….” (a good example of ‘making do or doing without’).

“The first recorded wheat field on the prairies,” writes Ehman, “was planted in 1754 at Fort a la Corne, on the Saskatchewan River east of present-day Prince Albert…” which begs the question—did Canada suffer from a dust bowl such as that in the USA, from over-farming the mid-western lands with wheat crops?

Amy Jo starts OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS with her own introduction, writing “When I think of my Grandma Ehman, I think of apples. Apple pie, applesauce cookies, apfelkuchen. Of picking apples and eating sour apples and climbing high in the branches of the old crabapple tree. Food and love and history intertwined…” (She had me in the first sentence, thinking of her Grandma Ehman, she thinks of apples just as when I think of my Grandma Schmidt, I think of apples! **)

Amy Jo describes the journeys of her ancestors, in particular her father’s family arriving in Regina in 1890 direct from their village near the Black Sea. Three generations earlier, they had left their villages in Germany to take up free farmland in Russia. Which might explain why, she writes, when Canada came calling for farmers, her family felt no hesitation in venturing out again

It has troubled Amy Jo that they learned so little in school about the culinary history of their land.

“In 1952,” she writes, “the Saskatchewan Archives Office at the University of Saskatchewan asked old-timers what the pioneers ate. “Their answers paint a picture of frugality and self-sufficiency. They grew, raised, foraged, bartered and often did without…they bought only what they could not produce themselves: white flour, oats, baking soda, molasses, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit. Yet even with such basic ingredients they managed to preserve their familiar food traditions while sharing recipes with their new neighbors from around the world. Then as now, food is history, hope and love entwined…”

It’s a pioneer’s story on the entire North American continent.

Amy Jo starts OUT OF SASKATCHEWAN KITCHENS with some of the original inhabitants of Saskatchewan, the Metis, who had a wintering village on the bend of the South Saskatchewan River.
I confess I had to turn to Google to learn something about the Metis:

[The Métis, Canadian French are one of the recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada. They trace their descent from mixed ancestry of First Nations and Europeans. The term was historically a catch-all describing the offspring of any such union, but within generations the culture into what is today a distinct aboriginal group, with formal recognition equal to that of the Inuit and First Nations. Mothers were usually Cree, Algonquin, Saulteaux, Menominee,Mi’kmaq or Maliseet, or of mixed descent from these people and Europeans. At one time there was an important distinction between French Métis and the Anglo-Métisor Countryborn descended from English or Scottish fathers. Today these two cultures have essentially coalesced into one Métis tradition. The Métis homeland includes regions scattered across Canada, as well as parts of the northern United States (specifically Montana, North Dakota, and northwest Minnesota). These were areas in which there was considerable intermarriage due to the fur trade.]

By 1872, writes Amy Jo, life was changing rapidly for the residents of Petite Ville… “Bison were fast disappearing, replaced on the horizon by the imminent arrival of European settlers and the advent of agriculture. The Metis of Petite Ville decided to give farming a try. To stake out their place, plant potatoes and barley, raise horses and live year-round on their land…excavations at Petite Ville and other historic sources tell us that in addition to bison meat and pemmican, they also ate wile game such as deer and snow shoe hare; birds such as ducks, geese and grouse; fresh water fish and native plants. Berries were pounded to a pulp and dried and later boiled to make pudding and cakes. Fish were broiled and smoked. Meat was kept in outdoor ice pits protected from animals and vegetables stored in root cellars beneath the floor or cut into the side of a hill. And while there may no evidence of gardening in the overgrown foundations of Petite Ville, writes Amy Jo, “it is well documented that the Metis were accomplished gardeners…[but] by 1875 Petite Ville was largely abandoned, its residents moving to more permanent communities…”

The ultimate fate of the Metis is not unlike that of many American Indian tribes; the government in Ottawa ignored their request for a title to their land and a decade later, in 1885, revolt against federal troops led to a tragic struggle to preserve their land, their independence and their distinct way of life. And treaties signed by the Canadian aboriginals suffered the same fate as the treaties signed by American native Indians.

September 4, 1905, was Inauguration Day; Saskatchewan had become a province. Amy Jo devotes the next few chapters on the development of Saskatchewan and the many settlers who came to farm the land and become a part of the development of the province. Included are reprints of old photographs, followed by recipes.

There are a wealth of recipes to accompany the many old photographs—it’s a really great read. Now I have to admit that my copy of OUT OF OLD SASKATCHEWAN was sent to me by my Saskatchewan girlfriend. I was unable to find it listed on Amazon.com . Published by MacIntyrePurcell Publishing, Inc., the ISBN number is 978-1-927097-61-8; this information may enable you to find a copy. And why would there be copies of OUT OF OLD NOVA SCOTIA KITCHENS and not one for old Saskatchewan Kitchens?

One final note— Amy jo Ehman is a local personality in the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System) – Canada’s answer to the USA’s PBS (Public Broadcasting System).

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

** MY GRANDMOTHER’S APPLE TREE
In my grandmother’s back yard there was an apple tree—sour apples, or cooking apples—I don’t remember if there was more than the one tree. In my memory banks there is only the one apple tree.

When the tree was laden with apples ready for picking, grandma sent my brother Jim (the oldest grandson) up the tree to shake some of the limbs so the apples would fall and could be collected in grandma’s big apron or grandchildren or her daughters-in-law would gather up the apples and carry them to a big round tub.

Grandma put some of the best apples into a red wagon and had a grandchild (sometimes it was me) to the sisters, whose house was behind St Leo’s. The sister who worked in the kitchen would exclaim over the apples and offer me a piece of peppermint candy.

We would transfer the apples to containers that sister provided and I could then take the wagon back to grandma’s house which was right up the street from St Leo’s—the church, the school, the priests’ house and the sister’s house, all in a row.

Meantime the apples would be washed and then anyone able to handle a peeler or a paring knife would start peeling the apples, cutting away bad spots. I don’t remember that any of us children were allowed to handle a peeler, much less a paring knife. My mother and two aunts, Aunt Dolly and Aunt Annie, would spend the day peeling apples.

Some of the apples were turned into apple sauce. During the war (WW2) when sugar was rationed, the apple sauce was canned sans any sweetener. We had sour apple sauce in the basement pantry for YEARS—you put some apple sauce on your plate and then were allowed to add a little sugar and stir it up.

Grandma made a lot of apple strudel, her specialty and I imagine some of the best apples were stored down in grandma’s cellar, to be used in future batches of apple strudel.

I have a Granny Smith apple tree in my back yard, now, and I make apple sauce, all the while thinking of my Grandma Schmidt and her apple tree and wishing—oh, how I wish! – that I had the recipe for Grandma’s Apple Strudel.

–Sandra Lee Smith

THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION BY BEATRICE ROSS BUSZEK

THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION by Beatrice Ross Buszek

While I was still mulling over the multitude of single topic cookbooks, I found a few more to share with you.

Three of these, about berries, were written by the same cookbook author, Beatrice Ross Buszek, of Nova Scotia.

The author tells of leaving her home in Nova Scotia and spending thirty years in different parts of the USA. However, in the introduction to The Apple Connection, Beatrice writes about her childhood in Nova Scotia, how everybody in the town had at least two apple trees and there were orchards as far as the eye could see.

Beatrice recalls how her father would put a barrel of Northern Spys and a barrel of Winter Gravensteins as well as a box of Russets in their basement.

Beatrice writes that in the thirty years before she returned to Nova Scotia, she was fortunate to live in apple country—Massachutsets, Washington State, Michigan, Northern California, and up-state New York (which is where I got the idea that her first cookbook was the apple connection—but I was mistaken). She says it was her experience to find such a similarity between the cooking customs, temperament, attitudes, and values of apple country people. She thinks the link was not so much the climate as the rural ambience, plus an unconscious reaching out and finding familiar traits and ways when far from home.

In the Introduction to the Cranberry Connection, the author writes, “Someone asked me where I got the idea for a cranberry cookbook. It was a simple question but with a not so simple answer. I thought on the many events of the past year and it occurred to me to put them together, to write the story of the bog adventure before getting into the berries…”

She continues, “As the tale unfolded the pages soon outnumbered the recipes. It would fill a second book to recount the many beginnings, diversions and intrigues of the cranberry caper; for example after many years away, I returned to the land of my childhood and bought a little old house overlooking a deserted cranberry bog in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. What a wonderful spot! I shall always remember the first time I stood in the yard and looked all around me…”

The author recounts that the house sits on a knoll alongside the post road just off the main highway. Her nearest neighbor was an old Baptist church and the earn morning sun rising out o f the mist and shining through its windows, blessing the little house with its golden rays.

In June [of that year] the author moved into the house and in October came the Crimson harvest. Beatrice fired up the old kitchen range and began to cook and experiment, beginning with a spiced version of cranberry sauce. The cookbooks were not much help as, like herself, most cookbook editors thought of the cranberry mainly in terms of the turkey but here and there should found creative and tested ideas using this inexpensive native fruit .

Beatrice goes on to write, “some Nova Scotia mothers still believe that a daughter who goes off to the “States” is automatically neither interested in nor skilled in kitchen happenings…” She says her mother was amused at the sudden cranberry craze but she was also astounded. She thought it was silly to bother with “those sour berries” when “everybody knows they are only good to make sauce”. Her mother became a cranberry convert.

“And”, Beatrice continues, “there are things that only obscurely relate to the origin of the cookbook”, like the day she climbed into the attic of the little house and found a bundle of old diaries. (Be still my heart! What I wouldn’t give or just to be able to READ such a find!) Beatrice read and read; the diaries upset her. She began to feel very close to the woman who wrote them. Her life was a yearly repeat of the same routine and the only diversion from her duties were Church and the cranberries. Beatrice writes that she now thinks she only had no choice about Church and cranberries either. She was glad when she read that the author of the diaries like to walk across the lane in the wet early morning July grass to find spots where the cranberry blossoms were most plentiful and pinkest and that she would pick a sprig and put it in a jar on the windowsill in the kitchen. (I had, perhaps, a sensation of kinship while reading the above—after spending the last two summers canning tomatoes and tomato juice from the produce in my son Kelly’s garden).

Beatrice writes that the cranberry quest opened many old and new doors to the past, revealing, for instance, the many links between the “Boston States” and Nova Scotia. She read of the planters from New England, prior to the coming of the Loyalists, who developed this section of the province, sowing seeds of their culture wherever they settled. Beatrice read of old Cape Cod and how the cranberry was first cultivated in Canada. Now, over a hundred years later, Beatrice found herself in the midst of another cranberry adventure. (*note: Beatrice’s cookbook, the Cranberry Connection, was first published in Canada in 1977; a second Canadian printing took place a year later, in May of 1978).

In November of the Beatrice’s first cranberry adventure, she spent a few hours in the botany laboratory at Canada’s Arcadia University where, among other varieties, the large American cranberry and the wild foxberry, were well researched. Her mind wandered, she writes (still in the introduction) as she wandered across the campus, pondering all that she had learned about the cranberry—its colorful past and even brighter future*. As she wandered, a cranberry cookbook took shape in her head and she could imagine the pages with bits of fact and folklore as could be fitted in between the pages. (*It should be noted that the beautiful sketches in Beatrice’s cookbooks were created by her daughter Christine and Jeanie, a friend from Ontario

Beatrice continues to explain, in the Introduction. “How the long winter weekends at Cranberry Cottage were spent collecting, sorting, testing and printing recipes”. (It should be noted that all the recipes in Beatrice’s cookbooks were handwritten).

Beatrice recalls “the country smell of the wood stove in the kitchen and the apple wood flames in the Franklin* filled the house and me with a feeling of warmth and excitement.” (*a kind of wood stove. I have one in my living room–sls)

Beatrice continues, “it was uncanny how accurately my mood or liking for the recipe, or time of day or night was reflected in the handwritten recipes. Later I could easily spot those recipes printed over the holiday season when I was snowbound for eight days or those printed during a long dreary rainy spell…”

Beatrice also explains how many recipes were discarded,keeping those she liked best and hoped would win over cranberry skeptics.

THE CRANBERRY CONNECTION reads very much like a kitchen diary; the recipes are all hand-printed; the drawings done by her daughter and a friend. It wouldn’t be fair for me to copy any of the recipes but I hope that readers who love cranberries will get a copy of the Cranberry Connection. There are many cranberry recipes in the cookbook—all tested by Beatrice. It is a testament to the Cranberry Connection that it went through more than one printing.

I found it on Amazon.com for various prices, new copies are available for about $18.00; pre-owned are available on different websites starting at one cent & going up. I recommend this book.

–Sandra Lee Smith

COLLECTING COOKBOOKS OR COMPILING THEM

The Friends of the California Lancaster Library book sale that I wrote about the other day was especially profitable from my point of view—I have been collecting cookbooks since 1965, little dreaming how the collection would grow, little imagining how many cookbooks are published year after year. Somewhere in my files is buried an article about how many cookbooks are published every year—but the author was writing about published cookbooks, those with a copyright and meeting requirements for publication—not included are the thousands of little church and club cookbooks wherein the good ladies of the church go around collecting favorite recipes from parishioners of the church and frequently published by a member of the church who works for a printing press. Many others are put together by the ladies of the church themselves, typed up and put together by whatever means available to them.

When the San Fernando Beachy School PTA ladies decided to put together a cookbook, I immediately volunteered my services—based on the fact that I collected cookbooks myself AND had a working knowledge of how to go about getting the cookbook published. By this time I was aware of cookbook publishers who often published their ads in women’s magazines.

Several PTA ladies collected the recipes and delivered them to me. I was too busy with four young sons, two of them toddlers, plus a home typing job, to do more than type up the recipes as they were collected and delivered to me. I held a meeting at my house and told the women how we could go about putting together a cookbook and this was how I became acquainted with Mary Jaynne (who drew the illustrations for our cookbook), and Rosalia, who both became lifelong friends.

In time all the recipes were typed, the illustrations drawn, and submitted to a cookbook publishing company. The year was 1971. Our little cookbook has stood the test of time; I refer to it occasionally when I want a particular recipe.

Years passed and I was involved with several other cookbooks being published but none to the extent of that first cookbook which we titled “Recipe Roundup”.

And years after that, I was involved with the compilation of an office cookbook that, after being referred to as the Office Cookbook for years before it was officially published, was given the title of The Office Cookbook.

In the 1990s, my sister Becky and I began compiling a family cookbook that we named after our paternal grandmother—who had managed to make each grandchild firmly believe that he or she really WAS Grandma’s Favorite. My sister Becky died from breast cancer but lived long enough to give copies of our cookbook to her children and grandchildren. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks, because so many of the family favorites, including some of grandma’s recipes, are in it.

This has been a long round-about way of wanting to tell you about some of the cookbooks I found at this week’s Lancaster Friends of the Library’s booksale which I am especially delighted about. (You can never have too many cookbooks!)

The titles of the books are as follows:

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS by Patricia Quintan

LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison

LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller

THE MINIMALIST ENTERTAINS by Mark Bittman – and –

HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H. J. Muessen

All of the books are in good-to-fine condition—in fact, Tammy Algood’s FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is brand-new, with a plastic wrap sealing it. Someone had donated this cookbook to the library without ever opening it. The cost to me was a dollar for each cookbook. (If I had waited one more day for the half price sale, I could have gotten the books for fifty cents each—but they might have been sold to someone else, if I had been patient enough to wait another day.

First on the list was CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS, subtitled “The authentic seafood and vegetable cookery of Mexico”, by Patricia Quintana with Jack Bishop. Published by Simon & Schuster, I was surprised to discover that Patricia Quintana   has also published The Taste of Mexico and Feasts of Life (plus 6 additional titles published in Mexico) and is a name unfamiliar to me and took me by surprise (not that I am any kind of an expert in any foreign cuisine—but several of my bookshelves are packed with Mexican cookbooks—you can’t live most of your adult life in Southern California and not be well acquainted with Mexican cuisine!

In the Introduction, the author explains “This book is somewhat different from the works we traditionally call ‘cookbooks’ and therefore needs some words of explanation to readers.”

She goes on to say that five years ago, she set out to write about the regional cuisines of coastal Mexico that rely o n seafood, vegetables and grains. She writes, “As I explored the coasts, rivers, and lagoons of my country, learning about the ways of Mexico’s first inhabitants, I felt an irrepressible connection with the past.

Although I make my home in Mexico City the inland capital of the country,” she continues, “I found myself drawn back to the sea for sustenance. It became the source of my spiritual and intellectual inspiration…”

When it was time to write, Patricia could not decide where to begin—how to capture her feelings and thoughts and put them into words. The scope of her project—to catalog the indigenous coastal cuisines and the changes that have occurred as a result of the introduction of new peoples and ingredients over the past five centuries—was massive.

As she tried to develop a logical organization for the book, it dawned on her that the shape of Mexico’s coastline, which swings south from the California border along the Pacific, then curves east to the Yucatan, and eventually rides back north along the Gulf coast to Texas, matches the mythical icon of Mexican culture, the snail. Water quite literally surrounds and encircles Mexico, with the Aztec capital—the sacred kingdom upon which Mexico City was built—at the center of this spiral.

Patricia continues to write that “the silhouette of the snail has inspired me to organize this book along somewhat unusual lines. The book is divided into sixteen chapters, each devoted to one coastal state…” (she adds that she has added the central region, which includes Mexico City, because of its role as disseminator of Mexican gastronomy and culture). She continues, “I also wanted to write about the customs, traditions, and culinary specialties of each coastal state, but found that a standard descriptive approach did not suffice…” Instead, Patricia created a number of characters—local individuals who relate their personal and cultural histories—at the beginning of each chapter. They speak in their own language  about their own experiences and describe how the waters of their lands have shaped their lives. “I invoke,” she explains, “among others, the spirits of a Seri grandmother from Sonora, a young Mayan from the Yucatan, a knowledgeable cook from Tamaulipas, and the learned Spanish friar Bernardo de Sahaguin (who witnessed the Conquest   firsthand) to tell their stories..l..”

This is just a portion of the Introduction—at the end, Patricia writes, “My goal is to awaken in each reader a sense of this history as well as an understanding of the unique gastronomy of each coastal region…” -and if she hasn’t whetted your appetite, she certainly has mine…not just for the recipes, but for the history of Mexico as well. (Coincidentally, just the other day I watched a program on Nova about Machu Picchu—not, of course, in Mexico, but high in the mountains of Peru—but it awakened in me a deep desire to learn more about South America).

“CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS” is a cookbook packed, literally, with recipes, history and much more.

Patricia Quintara is an internationally known Mexican culinary expert and teacher, whose students have included many of todays most prominent young chefs. Her cooking has been featured in Newsday, Bon Appetit, Connosseur, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.

Jack Bishop is a food writer and the author of two other cookbooks . He is a senior writer for Cook’s Illustrated and has had articles published in EATING WELL, THE VILLAGE VOICE and other publications.

CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS was published by Simon & Schuster in 1994 and I am the happy recipient of a like-new copy with dust jacket with a clear plastic cover over the dust jacket. I will be reading the recipes for weeks to come. I checked with Amazon.com and found they have a hardbound copy of a new book, priced at only $12.79. (The original book price was $25.00! this is about half). I’m sure you will be as excited as I was with CUISINE OF THE WATER GODS.

Next on my list of bargain finds is LOWBUSH MOOSE (AND OTHER ALASKAN RECIPES) by Gordon R. Nelson. (I intend to send my copy to my Oregon penpal Bev, who was born in Alaska))—but in the mean time, let me share Lowbush Moose with you.

I am fascinated with Alaskan cookbooks—as evidenced by my purchasing Alaskan cookbooks when I was a new collector. Nelson provides Alaskan recipes ranging from clams, shrimp and other deep sea creatures, to moose, caribou, fresh water fish, salmon, and many other Alaskan recipes—not necessarily animal or seafood proteins. There are recipes for berries, soups, sauces, sourdough bread—and a variety of other foods not generally found in southern California where I live. What I like is Nelson’s chatty. Friendly manner of writing that precedes the recipes. His introduction is titled “How to Write a Book and Like it” which I was able to immediately relate to. Some of the recipes were his family’s favorites. His recipe for Latta Potted Shrimp is introduced with the story that after his parents passed on, a number of his mother’s recipes came to him. One recipe in particular was on very old and dry and yellowed paper; Nelson believes that the recipe, for potted shrimp, came from his great-grandmother who came from Nova Scotia and is over a hundred years old. Will I attempt to make Latta Potted Shrimp? You bet! I have a particular fascination with old-time recipes for making food-things when there wasn’t any refrigeration.

But recipes for fish and seafood isn’t all that Nelson has to offer. There are plenty of other recipes, along with Nelson’s friendly chatter—such as a recipe for making your own sourdough starter. (I had a sourdough starter back in the 70s when making sourdough bread was very popular). If I had to make an educated guess what happened to the sourdough starter, I would venture to guess that it went the way of the fruitcake I was aging and periodically dousing with brandy. When I asked my ex (then not an ex) what happened to my fruitcake, he said he didn’t know what it was, so he threw it out. I didn’t attempt to make another fruitcake until we were no longer married—and Bob, who was my companion for 26 years, never threw ANYthing out, no matter WHAT.

LOWBUSH MOOSE is available on Amazon.com—you can buy a new copy for $5.50 or a previously owned copy starting at one cent. Just remember, when buying pre owned books, there is a $3.99 shipping charge that goes to the vendor offering it for sale. **

The third book on my list of cookbooks to share is FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING by Tammy Algood—no question about it, this book came to me brand-new and sealed in a plastic cover—AND I just discovered that it was published in 2012. Tammy Algood is a “food personality” on Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates, as well as state wide on PBS; we can hear her food reports on Nashville radio networks, Clear Channel and NPR. Tammy also conducts cooking schools at various Tennessee wineries and has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. (I don’t know how I missed her when I was spending weeks at a time at my sister Becky’s, from 2000 to 2004, unless Tammy wasn’t “out there” at that time.

FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING is packed with tempting recipes, all presented in a friendly easy-to-follow format, whether it’s a recipe f or appetizers (from Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms to Fresh Peach Salsa –and what did I find but a Green Tomato Salsa after Kelly removed all the vines after I told him I had enough with green tomatoes this year—mind you, I canned over 40 quart jars of tomato juice or blanched tomatoes in tomato juice. Well, I’ll be ready for green tomatoes next year! Actually was thinking I could fill a notebook or a blank cookbook with green tomato recipes)

There is a wealth of recipes using fresh ingredients in Tammy’s cookbook. Just for openers, also in the appetizer category you will find a wide range of recipes; Lazy afternoon Fresh Salsa, Spring Green Spread, Pickled Figs*, Roasted Eggplant Dip and more. (*We had 3 fig trees in Arleta and I can’t begin to tell you how much they are missed. I entered pickled figs in the L.A. County Fair for several years, winning blue ribbons for them). I am also tempted by a recipe for Roasted Bacon Pecans and Good to the Core Apple Chutney.

Under the chapter for Soups are recipes for Gulf Coast Corn and Shrimp Soup, Fall Squash and Sausage Soup, Roasted Sweet Potato Soup—and Smoked Tomato Soup that I will want to try when I get a new grill.

Tammy offs nearly twenty salad recipes—plus one for making your own Mixed Herb Croutons. Salads include Fresh Spinach and Bacon Salad, Cherry Rice Salad, Grilled Corn Salad (I have been making one for this for several years—will have to try Tammy’s recipe) – plus a variety of other salad recipes.

Under Sides you will find a wealth of recipes—count them! There are nearly fifty side recipes from which to choose—just a sampling might be Black-Eyed Peas Stew with Rice Waffles, Setting Sun-kissed Parsnips, Pocketbook Zucchini, Summer Breeze Carrot Souffle, or Pan-Roasted Poblano Corn—but you could make a different side every day for a month and still have recipes left to try.

Under Breads, I confess to being partial to muffin recipes so I would surely have to try Pack a Picnic Pepper Muffins, Sage Cornbread Muffins, Sweet Corn Muffins and surely Cornmeal Yeast Muffins—but there are recipes for making Revival Strawberry Bread and Hot Water Ham Cornbread—surely something for everybody in your household.

Entrees offers a wide variety of dishes, ranging from an Easy Crust Chicken Pot Pie, to a Traditional Southern Pot Roast. I would like to try the recipe for Roasted Chicken Pecan Salad (Pecans in recipes is very southern!) as well as Spinach Stuffed Pork Roll. I also want to try Southern Catfish Cakes.

Under DESSERTS you will find much to tempt you—from Sweet Potato Caramel Pie, to Caramelized Strawberries with Meringue but there are many other very-southern favorites….FARM FRESH SOUTHERN COOKING has so much to offer. I found it listed on Amazon.com—a prime copy is $16.74 but used copies may still be available starting at 24 cents.

The next cookbook in my recent find is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. The Jamisons are a name familiar to me. I have a number of their cookbooks, the most cherished being AMERICAN HOME COOKING which is amongst my reference books. I also have their book SMOKE & SPICE on the shelf with other barbeque books. The title alone – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS –is bound to pique your curiosity. It did mine. I was reminded of Myra Waldo’s travels to countries all over the world, resulting in dozens of cookbooks and along come Cheryl and Bill Jamison, traveling 50,000 miles, to 10 countries resulting in 800 dishes and—notes the dust jacket—1 rogue monkey. On the inside of the dust jacket, the publishers note, “after years of writing award winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready to take 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

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

And Brazil

And in the process wrote yet another cookbook (It should be noted that the Jamisons are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides—wait! Wasn’t that what Myra Waldo started out with, travel guides? And while the Jamisons do provide some recipes in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, I find their book is more of a travel guide itself; I’m going to be kept reading for some time. Around the World in 80 Dinners is available on Amazon.com; a hardbound copy that is new can be yours for $12.70.

That said, the next book on my list of the friends library books is LILIES OF THE KITCHEN by Barbara Batcheller. It isn’t hard to figure out how Barbara came up with the title—the lily, after all, is related to the onion. (Many years ago, I wrote a poem about this). Barbara must have spent years collecting the recipes that make up Lilies of the Kitchen, whether Vidalia Onion Tarts or Spreme of Lees and Potatoes Gratinee—there are onion recipes for every dish and palate.

Barbara Batcheller has her own cooking school and at the time this book was published, she was living in Los Angeles. Lilies of the Kitchen was published in 1986. Amazon.com has copies for $19.99, (new) or starting at one cent (pre owned) – 9.95 for a collectible copy. This is a great reference book to have at your finger tips—if you like onions!!

The next cookbook I found is Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist ENTERTAINS, based on his popular New York Times column, featuring forty seasonal menus for dinner parties, barbecues and more. If this was any larger it would be considered a coffee table cookbook—but it isn’t that big.

I found the Minimalist Entertains on Amazon.com, hardbound coy for $4.43 (new) or preowned starting at one cent. Remember that shipping & handling for pre-owned books is $3.99.

Maybe I saved one of the best for last; HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN by H.J. Muessen offers over 375 tested recipes from all over the world Muessen provides recipes from the Pacific (Polynesia, Philippines, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand)—then he provides recipes from China, Korea/Japan, Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Indocikna, Burma and Malaysia), then the Middle East—Iran, Arab Nations, Turkey, Israel, Egypt)

On to Russia, Africa, East Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Poland) followed by the Balkans (Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania)

And that is followed by Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg) then to Spain and Portugal, the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland),Scandinavia, Latin America (Caribbean. Central America, and North America (United States and Canada) –I listed everything on the dust jacket because this book was published in 1980 and I’m not sure how many of these countries have changed hands or politics in thirty-something years—even so, this is one of the most comprehensive chicken cookbooks I have ever encountered. If you love poultry and enjoy cooking chicken – this book is for you.

Amazon.Com has a copy of HOW THE WORLD COOKS CHICKEN, a hard bound cover, for 55 cents.

–Sandra Lee Smith

KINGS IN THE KITCHEN BY GERTRUDE BOOTH

Published in 1961,  KINGS IN THE KITCHEN was a distinct surprise as I began turning the pages the other day—I could read a different cookbook every day for the next five years and never get caught up, thanks to my penpal in Michigan who keeps me well supplied.

In the dust jacket, Gertrude Booth explains, “the traditional rule of the pot and pan domain is woman. But when something really special is created in the kitchen—the piece de resistance, the chef d’oeuvre of a meal—it’s a man’s job and every woman knows it. Here, collected in one volume by Gertrude Booth are the favorite recipes of more than one hundred and seventy men of distinction…”

She notes that “Affluence has opened the spice boxes of the Indies and the teapot of the Orient. The invasion of conquers, notably gourmets such as Napoleon Bonaparte, left a trail of changed eating habits in every land they visited. And always it has been the man of importance who has been the inspiration or the creator of the dish delectable. Whether he is the head of a royal house or the man in a woman’s life, he is a king in his own right—in his own kitchen—who by pomp or circumstance has glorified the kingdom of the kitchen….”

(Before I continue, let me point out that this book was published in 1961, some time before Women’s lib came along. AND it should be noted that now we have the Food Network and a many female chefs as well as male—so take those comments in consideration with the decade in which Booth’s book was published).

Gertrude Booth collected recipes from men such as the President of the United States (Eisenhower), his cabinet, ambassadors, governors, military officers, heads of industry, writers, artists, television and radio stars, publishers, editors, doctors and “hosts of other famous men from America and abroad…”

Gertrude Booth has spent years selecting and testing these fascinating recipes—and while many of the recipe contributors are names I am no longer familiar with—the recipes themselves are a great collection. Note the publishers, “Not only is this volume an intriguing glimpse of the tastes of successful and distinguished men, it is also complete and comprehensive cook book which includes recipes for everything from hors d’oeuvres to beverages, soups to sauces, fish to pheasant. These are the dishes which are served at the most famous tables in the world—the drinks which are consumed at the gayest cocktail parties and the desserts which are prepared for the most important guests…”

KINGS IN THE KITCHEN is available on Amazon.com with prices started just under $4.00. I am fortunate that my copy is in like-new condition with its dust jacket intact. FYI—I checked for any copies Albris.com might have and unfortunately, they don’t have any at all.

This is a great addition to your cookbook collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith