Category Archives: CULINARY HISTORY

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 Included is a considerable amount of material previously unpublished, found in her own files or contributed by friends to whom she had given recipes or to whom she had sent letters.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 6 (IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON & WHERE’S WALDO–MY SEARCH FOR MYRA WALDO

BOOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS – IN SEARCH OF BETTY WASON

Originally posted on my blog January 23, 2011

She first came to my attention with the acquisition of her book, “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS,” published in 1962. I was writing “PEEK INTO THE PAST” at the time for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

“This is the first and only book,” claim Doubleday, the publishers, “which traces the history of cookery from the days of primitive man up to the present day of the Four Seasons Restaurant and gourmet supermarkets…”

Since I now have nearly two bookcases full of books on the history of food – I wondered – is it true? Was Betty Wason first to explore, in depth, this fascinating subject? I’ve been going through my collection, checking publication dates – and so far haven’t found any that precede 1962. Interesting!

“COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is packed with culinary history. It opens with a description of feasts in ancient Greece – inspired, no doubt, by Betty’s visit there during World War II. She covers the subject of cookery in the Far and Near East, all of Europe, and the New World. The last four chapters of this book are devoted to the United States—from Thomas Jefferson to the Harvey Girls and Betty Crocker. (It seems to me that almost all American food historians have had something to say about Betty Crocker!).

But “COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS” is only one of more than two dozen books written by Elizabeth Wason Hall, whose pen name was Betty Wason. Her writing versatility stretched from cookbooks to a book about the Greek resistance during World War II, to a book published in 1999 about macular degeneration. If my calculations are correct, Betty Wason has been publishing books for 56 years!

Betty Wason was born and grew up in Delphi, Indiana, in 1912 where she studied classical violin and painting. She eventually enrolled in Purdue University hoping to become a dress designer. Wason graduated from Purdue in 1933 with the Great Depression in full swing. Work was not easy to come by and she settled on a job selling yard goods in the basement of Ayres Department Store in Indianapolis. giving cooking lessons for a utility company, and then working as an itinerant cooking teacher throughout Kentucky towns. Later, her first experience broadcasting experience was gained conducting a radio program for women in Lexington, Kentucky. Eventually, she moved to New York, where she became an assistant food editor at McCall’s Magazine.

(*McCalls was a very popular women’s magazine for quite a long time).

“I was young and wanted to see the world. I had no money, so I decided I would become a journalist,” she said in a 1997 interview

“Long before I was old enough to handle saucepans,” Betty writes in “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, “I used to stand around in fascination watching Mother tossing up delectable dishes and begged to be allowed to try my hand at the game. My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating. And so my quest became one of finding new and exotic blends of flavor, and on bright Sunday afternoons when other girls were probably playing with paper dolls, I plunged into old cook books and read of strange combinations of foods, and revelled (sic) in imagined taste thrills.”

Betty’s first trip to Europe was as a free-lance journalist with credentials from Transradio Press; her first connection with Columbia Broadcasting System, at the time of the Nazi invasion of Norway, was as its staff correspondent in Stockholm. Later, she became correspondent as well to NEWSWEEK.

Between trips to Europe, Betty joined the research staff of the New York Newspaper PM, which was then in organization, and she planned the paper’s food page. Returning to Europe in the winter of 1939, she abandoned cooking and recipes to cover a long series of War fronts, from Finland and Norway down to the Balkans. “Betty Wason first became known to many Americans as the CBS correspondent, who always managed to be on the spot when headlines were being made in World War II,” claims one of her publishers.

Between the summers of 1938 and 1941, Betty Wason covered virtually every country in Europe, managing to be on hand where ever major journalistic events “broke”: Czechoslovakia during the Munich crisis and after, Vienna for the first post Munich conference; Hungary during the occupation of Slovakia; Rumania at the time of Codreanu’s execution; Yugoslavia during its Orthodox Christmas celebrations; Rome during Chamberlain’s visit to Mussolini; Paris during the end of the Spanish Civil War; Italy during the early part of the Second World War…..and the list goes on and on. (from the dust jacket of “Miracle In Hellas”). Betty Wason was on her way to Norway after the Nazi invasion began. Her cross into Norway was anything but routine. She eluded border guards and hitched a ride in a truck across the mountainous terrain where she hid in the woods to wait out an air raid. She interviewed numerous wounded British soldiers and found out just how poorly the Allied defense had done. She returned to Stockholm and her broadcast by hitching rides and walking.

But none of that mattered to the bosses at CBS. Despite her daring hard work they still asked her to find a man to read her copy. She left Sweden in the spring of 1940 in search of the next big story, she soon ended up in Greece after short stops in the Balkans and Istanbul. With an expected Italian invasion of Greece on the horizon CBS again hired Wason.

She also started stringing for Newsweek during this time. In October 1940 Italian forces began to move into Greece, a cable came from CBS: “Find male American broadcast 4U.” Though CBS saw her gender as an impediment Wason strove on. During her six months in Greece her voice on the radio, Phil Brown, a secretary at the American embassy, introduced each broadcast with, “This is Phil Brown in Athens, speaking for Betty Wason.” Wason remained in Athens through the winter of 1940 and refused to leave the next spring, April 1941, as German air attacks ramped up in Greece’s capital. When the Nazis took Athens, Wason was stuck in the city for several weeks. Though America still remained “neutral” in the war Wason was kept, along with several other reporters, by the Germans who refused to allow anyone to broadcast. Eventually Wason left Athens on a Lufthansa plane bound for Vienna. Also on the plane were Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press and George Weller of the Chicago Daily News. Once in Vienna the Gestapo detained the entire group under suspected espionage. Soon the male reporters were released but Wason was kept another week for, according to her, “reasons never divulged except that the police wanted to know more about me.” When a CBS executive intervened, the Gestapo released her. She had married a Mr. Hall by 1943. On her return to the United States, Wason was inundated with interview requests, lecture requests and press attention. She recalled, “Everyone made a fuss over me but CBS,” Wason wrote. “When I went to see (news director) Paul White, he dismissed me with, ‘You were never one of our regular news staff.’ Then what, I wondered, had I been doing for CBS all that time in Greece?”

Wason authored 24 books after leaving CBS, mostly about one of her longtime favorite hobbies, cooking, though her most successful book was her 1942 story “Miracle in Hellas: The Greeks Fight On”. She wrote that the book “was a resounding success. But the tough struggle to make it as a woman correspondent, ending with the cruel rebuff by CBS, cooled my desire for more overseas war reporting.”

In 1998, at age 86, Wason wrote about macular degeneration, an affliction which stole most of her eyesight and rendered her legally blind. Macular Degeneration: Living Positively with Vision Loss was written, in part, with a grant from the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind.

In the Introduction to “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, published by Smith & Durrell, Inc., in 1943, she explains, in part, “This recipe book has been prepared in the hope that it will inspire the artists in the kitchen to turn their skills to the creation of new and savory dishes, not only overriding the bugaboo of wartime shortages, but perhaps even paving the way for a new era in American cuisine.

Many of the recipes,” she continues, “listed in the pages which follow have been adopted from peasant dishes of various European countries—recipes learned during the course of travels during the years 1938-1941, in countries either on the precipice of war, or already plunged into conflict, where rationing was often far more severe than any this country has yet to suffer.

In occupied Greece, where I was forced to remain during the first two months of German occupation, we had to pound our own salt out of rock crystals, substitute grape dextrose for sugar (when we could get grape dextrose), dried chick peas for coffee, and a bricklike hunk of what tasted like gravy sawdust for bread. Our only fats were inferior olive oil, rationed to approximately eight ounces a month, and occasionally, white ‘sheep’s butter’ – mutton fat. There was virtually no meat. Yet we had meals, and some of them were surprisingly good….”

If the title, “COOKING WITHOUT CANS” piques your curiosity, it should be noted that the American food industry had worked diligently, prior to World War II, to convince American housewives that the easiest way to prepare anything began with opening up a can. You want soup “just like mama used to make?” open a can of condensed soup and add water—voila, ‘homemade’ soup. As a matter of fact, I think my own mother was one of those completely brainwashed by the food industry. The only fresh vegetables or fruit we ever had were potatoes, carrots, celery, and in the summertime, an occasional watermelon or cantaloupe. Everything else came out of a can. So, along came the War – and the tin used by the food industry for tin cans was, like almost everything else, needed for the War effort. Tin cans were melted down and cast into solid metal “pigs” for re-using in the war industry. (James Trager, author of “The Food Chronology” notes, in 1943, “U.S. housewives wash and flatten tins for recycling: one less tin can per week per family will save enough tin and steel to build 5,000 tanks or 38 Liberty Ships…”). On a personal level, I remember how we rinsed out the cans, removed the labels, opened both ends of the tin can, and then flattened it. It’s one of the very few things I actually do remember about the War years.

Consequently, canned goods were restricted, although home-canned fruits and vegetables were not. (During peak war years, an estimated 20 million Victory gardens were growing in the USA, producing over a third of the vegetables available in this country). For the duration of the War, American women would have to learn “COOKING WITHOUT CANS”, which was, I believe, Betty Wason’s first cookbook.

“DINNERS THAT WAIT”, published in 1954, may have been Betty Wason’s second cookbook. I happened to find a paperback copy of “DINNERS THAT WAIT” in a used book store some time ago. Not only was I delighted to find something else written by Ms. Wason – it only cost a dollar! This little book is aimed at “every hostess who feels that her guests, as well as her meal, should be enjoyed…” The solution, offered in “DINNERS THAT WAIT” was a collection of main dishes that were delay proof, that could be prepared hours or days in advance. Again, the author draws on her European exposure, offering recipes such as Moussaka, that she learned to make from Greek friends, Smorgasbord, and – everybody’s favorite, Kidneys with Mustard sauce. “It’s too bad,” notes the author, “kidneys are so little appreciated in this country. When properly prepared, they are superb, worthy of the most discriminating palate….”

One of the best features of this little book is that it provides step by step directions—literally—right down to Step 5: Set table. Put water and coffee in pot. Get dressed. This would be a great cookbook, even today, for young women who are unaccustomed to entertaining. (I think I will try Intoxicated Pork or the Chicken Tetrazzini the next time it’s my turn to host a dinner party at my house).

In 1963, Doubleday & Company would publish “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” by Betty Wason. She notes, “I thought I knew so much about Spain that I could, if I wished, write a book about Spanish cooking, based simply on the many Spanish cookbooks in my own library. Fortunately, a little nagging worry beset me. I should really visit Spain before writing about the country. So I did. I made a speedy eight hour flight to Madrid on a TWA jet, and I traveled over as much of the country as I could cover in a month’s time, eating, eating, eating, wherever I went….” Betty’s nine-year-old daughter, Ellen, accompanied her mother to Spain, offering her candid view of Spanish food. The Introduction to “THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING” provides a capsulized history of the history of Spanish food that I think you would find interesting.

I was particularly intrigued with what she had to say about olives, olive oil, and sherry.

“Sherry,” writes Betty, “is a mysterious and unique wine. Its history goes back to antiquity. The Phoenicians brought the first grapevines to the area where all the world’s supply of true sherry is still produced, and they named the city Xera…Whether the wine produced in Roman times was the same as the sherry of today no one knows; however, after the vineyards had been destroyed by the phylloxera disease in 1894, new disease resistant vines were brought from the United States to be planted in Jerez, and lo and behold the wine was the same as ever….”

The entire book is written in this style, recipes and history stirred together to create a banquet of Spanish cooking. It is exactly the kind of book that cookbook readers enjoy.

In 1966, Galahad Books published Betty Wason’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”, which is presented as her 11th book. The publishers note, “She has written extensively about travel and world affairs, and served as a CBS correspondent in Greece during the German occupation in 1941. Her articles have appeared in VOGUE, HOUSE & GARDEN, HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, ATLANTIC MONTHLY and AMERICAN HOME”. At the time “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” was published, Betty was also a consultant to the Spanish Oil Institute and other firms.”

“THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE” is divided, (similarly to The Everything Cookbook that would come a few years later), into four parts. Part I – the Wonders of Cheese, offers an armchair history of cheese, while Part II is a Glossary of the World’s Cheeses. Part III explains how to serve cheese (there is a Cheese Etiquette, in case you didn’t know), and Part IV – Cheese in the Kitchen – presents us with recipes that range from cheese soups to cheesecakes.

“All my life I have been a cheese lover,” writes Betty, “but until I did the research for this book, I had no idea cheese was such a complex and fascinating subject…but the only way for anyone to really learn about cheese is to taste it….”

Once again, it becomes evident that Betty’s prior exposure to other places and other things provided some of the inspiration for yet another book. She explains, “My passionate interest in archaeology provided to be a further help in delving into the early history of cheese-making, for in several museums in Spain I saw tools of cheese-making dating from the Bronze Age, and in archaeology books, in my library plus translations of the classic Greek and Roman writers, I came across many interesting anecdotes about cheese in ancient times…”

Curiously, “A SALUTE TO CHEESE”, published the same year but by Hawthorn Books, is identical to “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE & CHEESE COOKERY”! I was so pleased when I found a copy of the former in a used bookstore, complete with dust jacket, for only $6.00. It was only after I got home and began leafing through the pages that I realized it was the same book, recipe for recipe, page by page. Both books were also published in 1966. (One can only guess at the reason why the same book was published by two different publishers at the same time. Perhaps one of the two cost less than the other?)

In 1967, Doubleday & Company published “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” by Betty Wason. Again, she visited the country. “Like most Americans today,” she writes, “I chose to fly to Germany in order to spend all my available time in the country itself, using the speedy transatlantic services of Trans World Airlines between New York and Frankfurt. Later, taking a cruise on the North German Lloyd’s luxurious new motor ship Europa, I realized how lovely it would be to have the leisure once again to cross the Atlantic by ship. At least, during the Caribbean cruise, I was able to talk with Chef Herbert Burmeister several times and to get from him recipes for some of the superb German specialties served on the Europa….” Betty describes the Germany she visited in the mid-1960s, but recalls, “It was in the late thirties, on the eve of World War II, when I visited Germany the first time as a journalist. During the Hitler era, elegance was frowned upon, at least for the people as a whole. The women were not permitted to use make-up and their clothes looked as if they had been designed to make every woman as dowdy and shapeless as possible…I was in German twice during the war years, before Pearl Harbor, and again in 1950 I visited Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart when those cities still had the rubble of aerial bombardments cluttering their streets and most shops offered only the barest necessities of life. To visit the richly prosperous, gay West Germany of today (1960s) is almost like seeing another country altogether. One is staggered by the change…”

She notes that for her, the most revealing things about people are found in little things. She says she always loved wandering through markets looking at the foods on display as a way of learning what kinds of foods go into home cooking. She also explains that one of the most difficult things about studying German cuisine was the language. “I once had the naïve idea that Germans all spoke the same language” she writes. She goes on to explain the differences—which reminded me of a conversation I once had with my German grandmother. Many different German foods and recipes are called by different names, depending on the region. Betty explains many of these differences. In this book, she presents a cross-section of recipes from the German cuisine of today (that is, in the 1960s) with new specialties born of today’s prosperity and old favorites which reflect the customs and traditions of another age.

“THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal of history, along with recipes. I decided to quote Betty on the subject of sauerkraut, since this particular topic was discussed at my cousin Dan’s 4th of July cookout one holiday. (I make sauerkraut every few years, and can it. My cousin loves it so I keep him and his wife supplied. My cousin’s brother in law informed us that he learned how to cook sauerkraut while in Berlin and so knows the best way. I said oh, I just cook it with bratwurst. (I cook it pretty much the same way my mother did. We always have mashed potatoes and creamed peas along with it).

Betty writes, “After my recent gastronomic tour of West Germany, I concluded that one cannot dismiss sauerkraut simply as a vegetable. It is part of the German way of life.
Yet until the Mongol (or Tartar) hordes swept into Eastern Europe in the 13th century, sauerkraut was unknown in Germany. According to legend, at least, it was the Chinese who invented the dish, during the building of the Great Wall when the coolies were fed from barrels of cabbage preserved in sour rice wine. Salt was too precious to use then; wine (or vinegar) was cheaper. The Mongols learned about the sour cabbage when they conquered China, and brought it with them to Hungary. From Hungary it traveled to Austria, and from Austria to Germany. Which just goes to show,” Betty concludes, “how history plays strange tricks on people’s food habits.”

She goes on to explain that the ways of preparing sauerkraut in Germany are many. Along with regional differences they are differences in personal preferences. While some people like it cooked long and slow until very soft (which is how I cook ours), other people like it very sour and crunchy. Betty says that every region in Germany has at least one favorite sauerkraut dish. She also offers a recipe for making your own sauerkraut. “THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING” offers a great deal more than recipes for sauerkraut, however. If you ever happen to find a copy, this book, like all of Wason’s cookbooks, makes for enjoyable reading.

Another formidable undertaking would be “THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK” published in 1970. This is a nice thick cookbook containing more than two thousand recipes!

“THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK”, published by Hawthorn Books, is described by the publishers as five books in one: Book One is the “ABC’s of FOOD PREPARATION”. Book Two contains “MENU PLANNING AND WEIGHT CONTROL”, while Book Three offers “RECIPES”. Book Four is a “GUIDE TO ENTERTAINING” and Book Five “ALL ABOUT WINES AND SPIRITS”. This is a big thick cookbook that would compare favorably to almost any new comprehensive cookbook being published today.

In the course of her career, Betty Wason has worked as a food specialist and consultant. She was an associate food editor of WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION and editor at General Foods Kitchens. In addition, she wrote articles for HOUSE AND GARDEN, VOGUE, AMERICAN HOME, WOMAN’S DAY and other leading magazines. At one time, she was the woman’s editor for THE VOICE OF AMERICA.

At some point in her career, Betty Wason married and became Betty Wason Hall, and the mother of at least one daughter, Ellen. Ellen undoubtedly provided the inspiration for “COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS” and “ELLEN: A MOTHER’S STORY OF HER RUNAWAY DAUGHTER”.

Betty moved to Pleasantville, New York along with a large collection of new and old cookbooks. Hunter Books, publishers of Macular Degeneration, indicate that as of 1998 Betty Wason was living in Seattle. Betty did not limit herself to writing cookbooks—she has, apparently, over the years written books about a variety of subjects.

The talented young lady who started out teaching cooking lessons traveled far and wide and experienced a versatile career that most of us can only dream about. She was, quite obviously, interested in a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to macular degeneration. And imagine this—her book on macular degeneration was published when Betty was 86 years old! Luckily for us, who love cookbooks, she wrote about those too.
Before closing, I want to make another comment about one of Betty Wason’s non-cookbook book accomplishments. In particular, I want to mention “MIRACLE AT HELLAS” which took some intensive searching to find, but was worth the search and the price.

I can only recommend that, since so many of Betty Wason’s books are out of print, you search diligently in your used book stores or internet websites such as Amazon.com for anything with her name on it.

Betty Wason is an author whose work has spanned six decades. I think you will be as impressed as I am over the quality and timelessness of her work.

Betty Wason passed away in February 2001 at the age of 88.

BOOKS BY BETTY WASON
• COOKING WITHOUT CANS, 1943, SMITH & DURRELL, INC. PUBLISHERS
• DINNERS THAT WAIT, 1954/DOLPHIN BOOKS (PAPERBACK EDITION)
• COOKS, GLUTTONS & GOURMETS, 1962/DOUBLEDAY
• THE ART OF SPANISH COOKING, 1963, DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY
• BRIDE IN THE KITCHEN, 1964 (publisher?)
• TRAVEL FAIR; HOWARD JOHNSON’S TIPS FOR TRIPS FOR FAMILIES ON THE GO, 1965 (publisher?)
• ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHEESE COOKERY, 1966, GALAHAD BOOKS
• A SALUTE TO CHEESE, 1966, HAWTHORN BOOKS
• THE ART OF GERMAN COOKING 1967/DOUBLEDAY
• IT TAKES “JACK” TO BUILD A HOUSE; A DOWN-TO-EARTH GUIDE TO BUILDING AND REMODELING BY BETTY WASON, ILLUSTRATED BY B. STEPHEN SALTSBERG, 1968 (publisher?)
• THE LANGUAGE OF COOKERY, 1968 (publisher?)
• COOKING TO PLEASE FINIKY KIDS, 1969, ASSOCIATED PRESS
• BETTY WASON’S GREEK COOKBOOK, 1969/MACMILLAN
• HAIR TODAY & GONE TOMORROW, 1969 (publisher?)
• ART OF VEGETARIAN COOKERY, 1969 (publisher?)
• THE MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1770 (publisher?)
• THE EVERYTHING COOKBOOK. 1970/HAWTHORNE BOOKS
• MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK, 1973 (publisher?)
• GIVING A CHEESE & WINE TASTING PARTY, 1975 (publisher?)
• IMPROVING YOUR HOME FOR PLEASURE & PROFIT, 1975 (publisher?)
• ELLEN, A MOTHER’S STORY ABOUT A RUNAWAY DAUGHTER, 1976 (publisher?)
• SOUP TO DESSERT HIGH FIBER COOKBOOK 1976 (publisher?)
• MACULAR DEGENERATION, 1999 (publisher?)
–Sandra Lee Smith
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WHERE’S WALDO?–MY SEARCH FOR MYRA WALDO

(First posted on my blog in 2011

*The following article was originally written for the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a newsletter) in 2001. At that time, I was unable to unearth ANY information about the whereabouts of Myra Waldo, much less whether or not she was still alive. I even wrote to a prominent used book dealer in NYC who had been featured a number of times in cooking magazines; he’d never even heard of her! Internet searches failed to reveal any information about Myra either before or after my article was published in 2001. Now, a decade later, I decided to update the article for my blog. Dutifully, I entered her name on Google.com again—and much to my surprise, this time I was rewarded with obituary details. The answer to “Where’s Waldo” will be found at the end of this article.

In 2001, I had written:

Where’s Waldo? No, not the cartoon character that is hidden in a maze of pictures for kiddies to search through – this time the Waldo is Myra Waldo, someone you may or may not have heard of, depending on how extensive your collection of cookbooks happens to be or how knowledgeable you are about cookbook authors of the past.

When my curiosity about Myra Waldo was first piqued, a dig through my own cookbook shelves unearthed seven old paperback cookbooks, three of which were duplicates (with two different cover designs). Since then, I have acquired a respectable stack of Myra Waldo’s cookbooks, some through the Internet (Alibris.com), some from Carolyn George, with whom I became acquainted through the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a few that CCE publisher Sue Erwin unearthed and even one that I located in a used bookstore. I already had this one title but bought it anyway, because it was only $2.50. (I always figure I can find a home someday for the duplicates).

Actually, I became interested in Myra Waldo in a roundabout way (I sometimes feel like Alice falling into the rabbit hole—one thing seems to lead to another). I was doing some research on Molly Goldberg, for a reason I no longer recall—it might have been in connection with my research on Duncan Hines. During an Internet search on Google.com, I came across an article in which a writer accused Molly Goldberg and Myra Waldo of being one and the same person. OK, for all the youngsters out there, your first question may be “Well, who was Molly Goldberg?”)—so I will have to digress a bit, and no, they were not one and the same person).

Molly Goldberg was, in real life, Gertrude Berg. Gertrude Berg was an actress, born in 1899, who debuted in 1929 with her own radio show on NBC, “The Rise of the Goldbergs”, later shortened to simply “The Goldbergs”. It was second only to Amos & Andy in popularity. (Please don’t write to ask me who Amos & Andy were.) What’s even more incredible, given the times (when women were expected to stay at home, barefoot and pregnant), Gertrude Berg was the creator, principle writer and star of this weekly comedy series. Berg wrote most of the episodes, which, after a twenty-year run, numbered over 5,000. It may be hard to imagine, but in the decades prior to television, radio was made up extensively of shows—some as short as 15 minutes, most a half hour long—comedy, mystery, western, drama—you name it.

(In 1994, I wrote an article titled “DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL” which appeared in the May/June 1994 issue of the CCE. There were, in addition to all of the story-line shows, radio recipe programs too, a forerunner of today’s television cooking Shows. I rewrote and shortened “Don’t Touch that Dial” for my blog, renaming it “When Radio Was King” which was a June, 2009 post on this blog).

“The Goldbergs” followed the adventures of Molly Goldberg and her husband Jake, and their family through life’s everyday problems. The program has a phenomenal 17-year run starting in 1930. In 1949, the radio program made a successful transition to television. Truthfully, I don’t remember the radio version of the Goldbergs but I do remember the television show, which ran for about five years on TV. (We had the first television set on our street; my father loved having whatever was new and innovative in the way of appliances and household things). When it became clear that television shows of this genre were on their way out, Golberg revamped her show, moved “the family” to the suburbs and renamed the series “Molly”. Gertrude Berg passed away in 1966.

By this time you are probably wondering just what Myra Waldo has to do with Molly Goldberg. Just this: In 1955, Myra Waldo and Molly Goldberg collaborated on “THE MOLLY GOLDBERG JEWISH COOKBOOK”.

Molly is the primary character through the cookbook, speaking in first person, staying in her Molly Goldberg character, but Myra Waldo undoubtedly put most if not all, of it together. “THE MOLLY GOLDBERG JEWISH COOKBOOK”, published in 1955, was a combination celebrity/radio show cookbook and it remains in circulation to this day. I have a hardcover copy that is in fine condition.

But this is just one of the many cookbooks written or co-authored by Myra Waldo, whose first cookbook was published, I believe around in 1954.

So, who’s Myra Waldo? I’m glad you asked, but have to admit, it hasn’t been easy to learn much about this elusive cookbook author. The dust jackets of her cookbooks offer very little in the way of biographical information, and often it’s the same few paragraphs in dust jacket after dust jacket. More can be gleaned from the pages of her cookbooks, but, unlike James Beard and Elizabeth David, and the host of other cookbook authors who have had biographies written about them, there is little to be discovered about the private life of Myra Waldo.

Myra Waldo was a cooking expert and a world traveler and may have been the world’s most traveled cook for her time. She was a food consultant for Pan American Airways who, with her husband, attorney Robert J. Schwarz, traveled all over the world. During the decades in which she compiled numerous cookbooks, she was a familiar figure on radio and television, and in newspapers and magazines. In addition to being the food consultant for Pan Am, Myra arranged a monthly regional dinner for the Overseas Press Club in New York City. As a contribution to international relations, she prepared a famous Thanksgiving dinner in Moscow for the Ministry of Culture and Technicum Institute of Health and Nutrition. She was Special Projects Director for Macmillian Publishing from 1965 to 1970, and Food and Travel Editor for WCBS-New York from 1968 to 1972. Articles written by Myra Waldo appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, House & Garden, and The Diners’ Club. One of the most fascinating snippits of information that I learned about Myra Waldo is that she and her husband even spent eight weeks on a safari, after which they completed a film about their experience. It seems they were dauntless in their travels and went everywhere.

In her world travels, Myra, (like James Beard), collected recipes and menus where most tourists would collect souvenirs. Cookbooks with a foreign flair appear to have been her specialty, although she by no means limited herself to cookbooks of this genre.
“Before 1918,” Myra writes in her cookbook “COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH”, “foreign food had but little acceptance and few enthusiasts in the United States. In the two decades or so that followed, Americans gradually began to be intrigued by the food of Europe and during that period Italian and French restaurants opened in profusion throughout the nation. But since the end of World War II, an enormous interest in the food not only of Europe, but also of the entire world has been growing swiftly all over the country….”

I agree with the above statement, but with a slight qualification. I think foreign foods have always had an acceptance in the various ethnic communities throughout the United States—Italian food in the little Italys, German food in towns such as Cincinnati and Germantown, where the early population was predominately German. But I read somewhere that it was American soldiers during World War II who brought home with them an acquired taste for foreign foods; many of them also brought home War Brides who brought with them the traditional recipes of their native countries. (As an aside, I might mention that Sally Tisdale, author of “The Best Thing I ever Tasted” doesn’t agree with this theory—but we’ll review Sally’s book another time.

I am always nonplussed by the synchronicity of things, as I am writing and researching. I first read about restaurant critic Colman Andrews in Ruth Reichl’s “Comfort Me with Apples”. Then I read about him in Sally Tisdale’s “The Best Thing I ever Tasted” – and although he was, apparently, a restaurant critic in Los Angeles for a number of years, I don’t recall ever reading anything about or by him before. Last I heard, he was/is editor of a food magazine).

In any case, there were far fewer foreign cookbooks available to us during the early decades of the 1900s—and oftentimes, those that were available were frequently written with European measurements.

Myra Waldo set out to change all that. In “COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH” published in 1965, the author and her husband traveled throughout Europe—Robert Schwartz never seems to be addressed by name, he is always “My husband”—and each chapter is introduced with a delightful short story of where they traveled and what they saw, and how they happened to discover this dish or that. I was so intrigued with the short stories that I leafed through the entire book and read them all first, before the recipes.

My favorite story is that of Myra and her husband, while in Vienna, walking past the Hungarian Embassy. They began to discuss never having been to Hungary, looked at each other and retraced their steps. Inside the Hungarian Embassy they presented their passports – and before long, despite what Myra describes as “a slightly disquieting feeling of nervousness” they were on their way. As they drove through the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, – the radiator boiled over because the fan belt had become loose. While wondering what to do, they noticed a farmhouse off in the distance, so they walked to it, where they encountered a peasant woman airing bedclothes.

They attempted to communicate in English, French, and German, and when that failed, made their needs known with sign language. They carried off a bucket of water, promising to return the bucket and when they returned, tried to pay the woman.
Myra explains, “The woman waved it aside and motioned us to come inside the kitchen. A delicious aroma filled the air, and always curious I wanted to know what was on the stove. But, it appeared, that was the very reason we had been asked inside—to have something to eat. It was a meal-in-one-dish, a sausage stew made with potatoes and sauerkraut, hearty and delicious. We were embarrassed about eating her food, for it was obvious the farm was a poor one, but we were very hungry, and she was watching us for expressions of enjoyment in the food. It was very good—delicious, in fact. We drank a light white wine with the stew and enjoyed both enormously.

My husband” she continues, “who has his points, came up with the perfect method of repayment. The woman wouldn’t take any money of course, but my husband opened a suitcase and extracted a box of Viennese candy, which we had brought along. He was right! She was ecstatic with pleasure and quickly and enthusiastically recited a list of names, apparently members of her family who would enjoy the candies…’

Myra and her husband left “amid many words of thanks on both sides, which she couldn’t understand, and which we couldn’t understand, but which everyone did understand”.
Don’t you just love it?

Other Myra Waldo cookbooks with a foreign flair were

PAN AMERICAN’S COMPLETE ROUND-THE-WORLD COOKBOOK, first published in 1954 and reprinted at least eight times, up to 1960;
“THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING”, first published in 1960 by David McKay Publishers;
“THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN”, also published in 1960, by G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS (French cooking for American kitchens);
“THE ART OF SOUTH AMERICAN COOKERY” published in 1961 by Doubleday and
“INTER-CONTINENAL GOURMET COOKBOOK” published in 1967 by Macmillan Company. (one edition has a spiffy box to hold the cookbook in), but I also have a very nice hardcover edition published the same year. Was the boxed edition for something special?
“THE COMPLETE ROUND THE WORLD MEAT COOKBOOK”, was also published in 1967 by Doubleday & Company, and
“SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COOKING WORLD” was published in 1971 by Dodd, Mead & Company
**
“THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING” offers chapters on cuisine from Hawaii, Japan, Korea Phillipines, Indonesia, China, Indochina, Malaya, Thailand, Burma, and India.

“SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COOKING WORLD” is devoted to recipes from China, The Orient (other than China), Where East Meets West (recipes from Russia, Rumania, Greece, Turkey, Iran and Israel), Middle Europe (Germany , Austria, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia), Italy, the Latin Countries (Spain, Portugal, South America and Mexico) and France.

“THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN” adapts hundreds of French gourmet recipes for American kitchens (and palates) with recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts, and a glossary of different kinds of cheeses, a chapter of information regarding wines and an herb and spice chart. This is the kind of book that will make gourmet cooks out of all of us.

“INTER-CONTINENTAL GOURMET COOKBOOK” presents recipes from twenty-six countries, (too many to list), but including Australia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Yugoslavia. What is most appealing about all of these cookbooks is that the recipes were all, obviously, chosen with particular care and are, in every instance, geared to the tastes of American palates. Each chapter is prefaced with an introduction by the author, whose writing is so appealing as to make you want to visit every one of these countries…being unable to do that, trying the many recipes might be the next best thing.

And, although “THE ART OF SPAGHETTI COOKERY” does not appear to have been classified amongst Waldo’s “foreign” cookbooks, it does contain recipes from many parts of the world; recipes such as Czechoslovakian potato noodle, Greek macaroni casserole, Bhat Aur Savia (Indian rice and spaghetti) and Chinese beef and noodles. As an added bonus, the author provides an interesting history of spaghetti in the Introduction. Makes no mistake about it, this is one cookbook author who always did her homework.
Another cookbook by Myra Waldo, while not strictly “foreign” has a European stamp, with recipes from France, Italy, Spain and Sweden is “CAKES, COOKIES AND PASTRIES”, (187 great dessert recipes from around the world) first published by Crowell-Collier Publishing Company in 1962. Included are tantalizing recipes for goodies like Venezuelan Banana Torte and Viennese Poppy Seed Torte, Greek Pistachio Cookies and Swedish Honey cookies.

“MYRA WALDO’S DESSERT COOKBOOK” is written in a similar vein, offering recipes from many parts of the world. Included are recipes for yummy recipes such as Hungarian Plum Dumplings, Chinese Sesame Seed Bananas, Polish Almond Bars and Persian Rice Pudding. This, also, was first published in 1962 by Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.
“SERVE AT ONCE, THE SOUFFLE COOKBOOK, 1954, was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company in New York.

“Myra Waldo has been testing and collecting souffle recipes for years,” we learn on the dust jacket of this book., “Her previous writing experience ranges from copy for cosmetics and chain stores to travel folders, and to assisting her husband compile two dictionaries. She is a member of the Gourmet Society of New York..” Aha, so now we know a bit more.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think many cooks, whether male or female, everyday people in our kitchens, prepare souffles anymore). If I were to make an educated guess, it would be that we don’t want to take the time to do anything culinary that takes too much time. Our cake and brownie mixes come out of a box; our cookies are slice and bake. We cut to the chase with pre-cut and frozen onions and already minced garlic and a lot of things that come out of cans. I am just as guilty of this as the next person. I often start out with a mix of some kind and then “doctor” it. (and now someone has made a career out of doing just that on TV). When I start researching cookbook authors of half a century ago, I begin to realize how far we have strayed from “scratch” cooking. I think I’ll try some of these souffle recipes and get back to you on this particular issue.

Myra Waldo appeared to be ahead of her time with cookbooks that were for our health. “SLENDERELLA COOK BOOK” was first published in 1957 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Later, it appeared in paperback under the title, “THE COMPLETE REDUCING COOK BOOK FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY”. Another cookbook published in paperback was titled “COOKING FOR YOUR HEART AND HEALTH”, first published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1961, reprinted in paperback by Pocket Book in 1962 (cost of the paperback was fifty cents—imagine THAT!).

One book appears to have been originally published by Collier’s as a paperback, was “THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK” (170 ingenious one-dish dinners). I think it might have been a takeoff from her earlier “COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH” although the recipes are different. “The casserole” noted the author, “is the greatest single boon for the busy hostess. It permits her to join her guests instead of being confined to last-minute duties in the kitchen…” I agree, and reading both books, found many recipes that would be suitable even today. The back cover of “THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK” notes that “Myra Waldo is the author of many Collier cookbooks, including “COOKING FROM THE PANTRY SHELF”, “GREAT RECIPES FROM GREAT RESTAURANTS”, “THE HAMBURGER COOKBOOK”, “COOK AS THE ROMANS DO”, “SOUFFLE COOKBOOK”, “CAKES, COOKIES AND PASTRIES” and “1001 WAYS TO PLEASE A HUSBAND: THE BRIDE’S COOKBOOK”.

Incidentally, if you have this last title, it appears to be the most elusive of all Waldo’s books and, for some reason, the highest priced listed in Alibris.com. I am unable to determine whether 1001 Ways to Please a Husband and The Bride’s Cookbook are one and the same or two separate books.

“THE BRIDE’S COOKBOOK” was published by Collier as a paperback in1961 with numerous reprints. The copy my friend Sue Erwin located was printed in 1972. As cookbooks go, this one is a delightful departure from the norm. It’s the story of newlyweds, Jane and Peter, told in diary form by Jane; the recipes are good and the story line is cute. As an aside, while researching this and other cookbook authors, it has become apparent that quite a few writers of the 50s and 60s wrote a bride’s cookbook.
Another favorite Myra Waldo cookbooks is “THE DINERS’ CLUB COOKBOOK, (Great Recipes from Great Restaurants), published in 1959 by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, Inc. Recipes are from famous restaurants from coast to coast and there is even one from the Toll House in Whitman Massachusetts—where the original chocolate chip cookie was created. The recipe in the Diners Club cookbook, however, is a frosted daiquiri pie. Many of the restaurants no longer exist today, but it’s fun to read and the recipes sound delicious.

In 1960, Myra Waldo published “COOKING FOR THE FREEZER” and this was dedicated to preparing meals in advance. Written prior to the advent of side-by-side freezers and cross top freezers, the refrigerator-freezer shown on the cover with the author doesn’t look like it would hold more than a single meal but the author offers recipes that reconstitute satisfactorily after freezing and do sound good. Most of Myra Waldo’s cookbooks show, I think, the influence of her world travels.

Despite being a most prolific cookbook author throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, publishing over 40 cookbooks, Myra Waldo appears to have all but disappeared from our culinary awareness. Most of my food-related books fail to mention her at all; James Trager, in “THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY” refers only briefly to her first cookbook, “THE SOUFFLE COOKBOOK” published in 1954, and Waldo’s 1967 “INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKING”.

(As a yardstick of comparison, I noted that Irma Rombauer, who wrote only one cookbook (Joy of Cooking) ranks an entire lengthy paragraph in Trager’s Food Chronology, while Margaret Rudkin who introduced the world to Pepperidge Farm Bread and wrote “THE PEPPERIDGE FARM COOKBOOK” is acknowledged with nearly an entire page. Ida Bailey Allen who, you know, is the author of first cookbook I was introduced to as a child, is referenced nine times in Trager’s book, even though some of Allen’s books were little more than pamphlets and many were quite obviously promotions for the products that sponsored her.

And yet, as I leaf through cookbook after cookbook written by Myra Waldo, I am impressed with the quality of her writing. Recipes are written straightforwardly, directions are clear and precise. Any one of us could read her cookbooks, today, and follow her instructions. Sometimes we are gifted with interesting asides such as those in “THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN” in which Myra explains how Baked Alaska was the unexpected and happy result of a laboratory experiment and tells us how sherbets came to 16th century France with Catherine de Medicis, bride of Henry II.

Myra often gives us a food-related history lesson throughout the pages of “THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN”. This cookbook, incidentally, is another favorite of mine. The stories she shares in COMPLE MEALS IN ONE DISH are heartwarming. Each chapter begins with a short memoir—and it is here, in this cookbook, that one gets a true sense of who Myra Waldo is.

Another mystery to this most elusive cookbook author is that her books were published by many different publishers, sometimes two different ones in the same year. Oftentimes, an author’s books will be published by the same publisher.
]
And where’s Waldo, today? I don’t know. I have been unsuccessful
In my efforts to trace the elusive Ms. Waldo. If you know the answer to this question, let me hear from you.***

BOOKS BY MYRA WALDO
This list is intended to be a guide; I have no way of knowing how complete the list is.
• SERVE AT ONCE, THE SOUFFLE COOKBOOK 1954, was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company in New York.
• PAN AMERICAN’S COMPLETE ROUND-THE-WORLD COOKBOOK, first published in 1954 and reprinted at least eight times, up to 1960;
• THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING”, first published in 1960 by David McKay Publishers;
• DINING OUT IN ANY LANGUAGE/1956
• THE SLENDERELLA COOK BOOK/G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS 1957
• BEER AND GOOD FOOD/DOUBLEDAY & CO, 1958
• COOKING FOR THE FREEZER/DOUBLEDAY & CO, 1960
• THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN/G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS, 1960
• MYRA WALDO’S DESSERT COOKBOOK/CROWELL-C0LLIER PUBLISHING 1962
• THE COMPLETE REDUCING COOK BOOK FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, PERMABOOKS (paperback) 1957 (*originally published in hard cover as the Slenderella Cook Book)
• 1001 WAYS TO PLEASE A HUSBAND, 1958* (is this the same book as the Bride’s Cokbook?)
• MYRA WALDO’S BICENTENNIAL AMERICAN KITCHEN/POPULAR LIBRARY EDITION 1960
• COMPLETE BOOK 0F GOURMET COOKING FOR THE AMERICAN KITCHEN, DRAWINGS BY NATHAN GLUCK, 1960 (publisher?)
• THE COMPLETE BOOK OF ORIENTAL COOKING/DAVID MCKAY COMPANY, 1960 (Bantam Book published 1960)
• COOKING FOR YOUR HEART AND HEALTH/G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS, 1961 – POCKET BOOK EDITION, 1962
• THE BRIDE’S COOKBOOK, Collier Books 1961 (paperback) original copy right 1958. (*Is 1000 Ways to Please a Husband and The Bride’s Cookbook one and the same book?)
• CAKES, COOKIE AND PASTRIES/THE CROWELL-COLLIER PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1962
• COMPLETE BOOK OF VEGETABLE COOKERY, OR HOW TO COOK VEGETABLES SO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS WILL RAVE ABOUT THEM—AND YOU, 1962 (publisher?)
• COOKING FROM THE PANTRY SHELF, 1962 (publisher?)
• THE PANCAKE COOKBOOK, 1963
• THE CASSEROLE COOKBOOK/COLLIER BOOKS (paperback) 1963
• THE PLEASURES OF WINE/A GUIDE TO THE WINES OF THE WORLD 1963 (publisher?)
• COMPLETE MEALS IN ONE DISH/DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, 1965
• COMPLETE BOOK OF WINE COOKERY 1965 (publisher?)
• DICTIONARY OF INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND COOKING TERMS, 1967
• INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOKING, ILLUSTRATED BY SIDONIE CORYN 1967 (publisher?)
• INTER-CONTINENTAL GOURMET COOKBOOK/THE MACMILLAN COMPANY, 1967,
• THE FOOD AND DRINK OF SCOTLAND/HIPPOCRENE BOOKS 1996*
(this date may be incorrect. Possibly 1969?)
• SEVEN WONDERS OF THE COOKING WORLD, 1971
• CUCINA ORIENTALE, 1972 (publisher?)
• COMPLETE ROUND-THE-WORLD COOKBOOK; RECIPES GATHERED BY PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS FROM OVER 80 COUNTRIES WITH FOOD AND TRAVEL COMMENTS BY MYRA WLADO, 1973 (publisher?)
• THE MOLLY GOLDBERG JEWISH COOKBOOK/JOVE PUBLICATIONS, (PAPERBACK) 1978
• ART OF SOUTH AMERICAN COOKERY, ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN ALCORN, 1996 (publisher? Date accurate?)

Publishing dates unknown:
• COMPLETE ROUND-THE-WORLD HORS D’OEUVRES BOOK
• COMPLETE ROUND THE WORLD MEAT COOKBOOK
• COOK AS THE ROMANS DO
• CREATIVE MEALS IN HALF THE TIME
• DICTIONARY OF INTERNATION FOOD AND COOKING TERMS
• DIET DELIGHT COOKBOOK
• FLAVOR OF SPAIN
• GREAT RECIPES FROM GREAT RESTAURANTS (possibly the Diner’s Club cookbook?)
• THE HAMBURGER COOKBOOK
• MYRA WALDO’S CHINESE COOKBOOK
• THE GREAT INTERNATIONAL BARBEQUE COOKBOOK
• THE PRIME OF LIFE AND HOW TO MAKE IT LAST

TRAVEL BOOKS:
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO EUROPE (no date)
• NEW HORIZONSA, USA
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL & MOTORING GUIDE TO EUROPE, 1967
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC, 1981
• JAPAN EXPO ’70 GUIDE, 1970
• MYRA WALDO’S RESTAURANT GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY AND VICINITY
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO SOUTH AMERICA
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO SOUTHERN EUROPE
• MYRA WALDO’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO THE ORIENT AND THE PACIFIC

***And this is what I found on Google:

Dateline July 29, 2004
“Myra Waldo, a writer who filled bookshelves with advice on places to see and their customs, died Sunday in her home in Beverly Hills. She was 88 and formerly lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The cause was congestive heart failure, her family said…Myra Waldo was born in Manhattan and attended Columbia University. In 1937 she married Robert J. Schwartz, a lawyer, who died in 1997. She used her maiden name professionally….” (Obviously, Wolfgang Saxon who wrote this piece – didn’t really KNOW anything about Myra Waldo. He concludes, “Ms. Waldo worked on special projects for the MacMillan Publishing Company in the late 1960s. From 1968 to 1972, she was on the air as food and travel editor of WCBS radio, a job that led to her 1971 “Restaurant Guide to New York City and Vicinity” which she continued to revise into the 1980s.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME, WOLFGANG? This is all you had to write about a woman who wrote over FIFTY books?

Jill Holzman, writing for Jewish Journal did considerably better with a short obituary about Myra Waldo Schwartz on August 5. 2004:

“Myra Waldo Schwartz, travel writer, food editor and critic, died July 25. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Myra had numerous television appearances, a radio show on food on New York’s WCBS News Radio 88 and was the food editor for the Baltimore Sun’s This Week Magazine.

She wrote more than 40 books, including “The Complete Round The World Cookbook”, “Seven Wonders of the Cooking World” “The Molly Goldberg Cookbook” and “l,001 ways to Please Your Husband.”

Her passport bears the stamp of nearly every country, and the former president of the Society of American Travel Writers once described her as ‘The most traveled woman in the world,’ having visited every continent but Antarctica.

She is survived by her sister, Naomi Waldo Holzman; nephews Dr. Gilbert and Dr Donald Holzman, and their respective families. She remains an inspiration to her family, friends and fans.”

I’m only slightly mollified. It seems to me that Jill Holzman, being a family member,
could have expanded more on Myra’s career. I would certain hope that, if I had written over forty cookbooks many of which were reprinted countless times in paperback editions (I know because I have a lot of them), my family had better have more to say about my illustrious career than a mere nine lines. And I have to say, I was saddened to learn she was living in Beverly Hills – not so very far from me when I was still living in the San Fernando Valley. I can’t help but wonder if she would have given me an interview, had I but known.

So, in 2011 when I ask you “Where’s Waldo?” you might correctly respond “In heaven” – or maybe she is peeking over my shoulder tonight, offering inspiration. 

Happy cooking-and Happy cookbook reading!

–Sandra Lee Smith

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS, PART 5

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS PART 5 (Master Chef Louis P. De Gouy, COOKBOOK AUTHOR BERNARD CLAYTON)

TRACING THE LIFE OF MASTER CHEF LOUIS P. DE GOUY

Originally posted on April 2, 2011

“Mr. De Gouy has the gift of making cooking an adventure. Even the plainest dishes become exciting; and for those of bolder spirit, there are many roads opening to new and unexpected gustatory pleasures. He writes with infectious enthusiasm for his subject, salting the book with anecdotes and amusing tales on the origin and the history of philosophy and poetry about the timeless art of cooking and eating” – From the dust jacket of The Gold Cookbook, thirteenth printing, 1960.

“From time immemorial, soups and broths have been the worldwide medium for utilizing what we call the kitchen byproducts or as the French call them, the ‘dessertes de la table’ (leftovers), or ‘les parties interieures de la bete’, such as head, tail, lights, liver, knuckles and feet.” Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949).

“Even today, some Dutch mothers place a piece of stale bread in their babies’ cradles to ward off disease. In Morocco, stale bread is considered an excellent cure for stuttering and present-day Egyptians believe that licking a stale crust will cure indigestion” from Breads Superstitions, Louis P. De Gouy The Bread Tray, Dover Publishing, 1974

“Be not deceived by the apparent nonchalance with which an expert cook or master chef throws together an attractive and tempting meal. It is merely proof that, through practical experience, she or he knows thoroughly all the steps and preparation that seem to follow each other so automatically to a successful conclusion. No beginner should feel ashamed to depend on whatever help other people can give, either through printed recipes or by personal instruction” –Louis P. De Gouy from Creative Hamburger Cookery, Dover

Publishing, 1974

“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”

Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book, Dover Publishing, 1974
“One whiff of a savory aromatic soup and appetites come to attention. The steaming fragrance of a tempting soup is a prelude to the goodness to come. An inspired soup puts family and guests in a receptive mood for enjoying the rest of the menu.” Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book, Dover Publishing, 1974

And

“There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup, its wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation, to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop, rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers.” – Louis P. De Gouy The Soup Book, Dover Publishing, 1974.

Until relatively recently, I had never heard of Louis De Gouy, and I didn’t have any of his cookbooks. Now I have one, The Gold Cookbook, and I have no idea where it came from–which, I am abashed to admit, is not unusual for me. I have acquired cookbooks singly and by the boxful…recently by the tote-bagful when my daughter in law and I went to the Lancaster Friends of the Library book sale.

When two of my girlfriends died, five years apart, I was given most of their cookbooks. Mandy and I frequently bought the same cookbook at the same time, so now I had two of many different cookbooks.

As I was researching various other cookbook authors, I began coming across references to Louis De Gouy. Most surprising, I discovered that he was one of the founders of the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine which I loved and subscribed to for many years. (*When my husband and I moved to Florida in 1979, I discarded decades of old Gourmet magazines, never imagining they might be valuable). When we returned to California in 1982, I started up a new collection of Gourmet Magazines. Gourmet Magazine debuted in January, 1941 and the final issue was published in November, 2009.

Gourmet Magazine was the idea of Earle R. MacAusland (1891-1980). He conceived the magazine in his mind in the late 1930s and began putting the pieces for it together. He approached Boston artist, Samuel Chamberlain, who agreed to be an out-of-house resource. Chamberlain was useful because he could both illustrate, and write well. MacAusland also recruited a professional chef, Louis Pullig de Gouy. Pearl Metzelthin was the first editor-in-chief.

The first issue appeared in December 1940 (dated January 1941). MacAusland was 50 years old at the time. That first issue was a mere 48 pages, with an illustration of a roasted boar’s head on its cover. The main piece was on the food and wine of Burgundy. In fact, the early years of the magazine would focus on French cooking as well as eastern American food.

In 1941, Clementine Paddleford came onboard as a regular contributor (Clementine Paddleford is one of the cookbook authors on my to-do list to write about). The “You Asked for It” column of recipes requested by readers started in 1944. The magazine started running serial narrative articles that became popular with readers. The covers were often created by Henry Stahlhut.

I learned that De Gouy was the Chef at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for 30 years but curiously, despite spending three decades at one hotel, he served at numerous other establishments, both here and abroad.

De Gouy began his career as chef under his famous father, who was then Esquire of Cuisine to the late Emperor Francis Josef of Austria. Later he studied under the renowned Escoffier. In time his name became associated with some of the great culinary establishments in Europe and America. In France: Grand Hotel, Hotel Regina, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel de Paris, and Monte Carlo. In England: Carlton Hotel, Leicester Square, Hotel Kensington, and Grand Hotel, Folkstone. in Spain: Casino of San Sebastian and Hotel Maria Christina. In America: the old Hotel Belmont and the old Waldorf-Astoria in New York City; Old Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, Conn.; La Tour d’Argent in Chicago; and countless others. He served as Chef Steward aboard the J. P. Morgan yacht Wild Duck when it made its cruise around the world. (For a man who only lived to be seventy-one years old, he really got around).

In addition to being one of the founders of Gourmet Magazine, De Gouy was consulting editor and chef for Restaurant Management Magazine, and consulting chef for the National Hotelmen Association of America.

And if that were not enough, Chef De Gouy authored sixteen cookbooks! How was that accomplished? Well, I can do the math—many of them were published after De Gouy had passed away but it appears that he had compiled the manuscripts and obtained copyrights on them. It would be interesting to know who inherited his works and managed to put them into a respectable collection of cookbooks. And perhaps this also explains the huge value placed on SODA FOUNTAIN/LUNCHEONATTE/DRINKS AND RECIPES published in 1940. There is one listed on Amazon.com and the price is $5,000.00! (I don’t want ANY book that much, to pay such an exorbitant price for it! It’s not like you’re talking about the Gutenberg Bible! And I can’t help but think how many cookbooks I could buy with five thousand dollars!)

The following is a list of De Gouy’s cookbooks with an effort made to putting them in their original date order. I have spent hours searching for additional information but for the most part, come up empty-handed.

• The Derrydale Fish AND GAME Cook Book 1930s (** see footnotes)

• Ice Cream and Ice Cream Desserts: 470 Tested Recipes, original copyright 1938, Copyright renewed 1966

• Sandwich Manual For Professionals, 1939, Published by The Dahls in Stamford Ct.

• Soda Fountain & Luncheonette Drinks & Recipes, 1940, Published by The Dahls in Stamford, Ct.
• The Bread Tray: Recipes for Homemade Breads, Rolls, Muffins and Biscuits, Original copyright 1944, Copyright renewed 1972

• The Gold Cook Book, originally published 1947, with numerous reprints, up to and including 1960, Published by The Chilton Company-Book Division

• The Soup Book, Copyright 1949 by Mrs. Louis De Gouy, Dover Edition 1974

• The Salad Book, 1950
• Creative Hamburger Cookery; 182 Unusual Recipes for Casseroles, Meat… 1951
• The Pie Book, 1974 Dover Publishing

• The Oyster Book

• Sandwich exotica: The sandwich manual for connoisseurs

• The Ultimate Sandwich Book: With Over 700 Delicious Sandwich Creations

• The Cocktail Hour, copyright 1951 by Mrs. LDG, Greenberg Publishing

• Chef’s cook book of profitable recipes; 1500 recipes for hotels

• The Burger Book; tasty ways to serve ground meat

**I am listing the Derrydale Fish & Game Cookbooks as a single entry even though I have seen dozens of listings showing them separately – either the fish or the game cookbook which confused me, initially, because the listing would be something like “Derrydale Fish Cookbook” accompanied by a photo of the cookbook showing illustrating it as “Derrydale Fish AND Game Cookbook”. I finally found the following which I think clarifies the listing:
“In 1927 Eugine Connell III established the Derrydale Press, the leading publisher of outdoor and sporting books in America. Its original 169 published titles are prized by book collectors around the world. Louis De Gouy was a master chef with possible lineage to a chef of the Austrian Royal Court. Louis was also one of the original founders of Gourmet Makes which made its debut in 1941. This set of wonderful cookbooks was first published in 1937. These are a set of the 1987 reprints and were a limited edition of 3000. This two volume set is a classic in culinary literature. Written in encyclopedic form they are guides to cooking every type of game, fish and crustaceans imaginable. From bear to woodcock and bass to whiting you will never be at a loss for something new and unusual again. These hard bound leather editions are filled with 634 pages of recipes in mint unused condition. They are the perfect gift for the hunter, fisherman or culinary genius in our life.”

Postscript: I have begun collecting the cookbooks of Louis De Gouy, searching for any kind of copies, to read, not necessarily for cookbook collecting value. Out of five that I recently purchased from Alibris.com, four were published by Dover Publishing, and one by Running Press. A clue was found almost immediately by opening the pages of The Bread Tray. Inside is this:

This Book is fondly Dedicated

To the Memory Of
Louis P. De Gouy
(1876-1947)
By His Daughter
Jacqueline S. Dooner

The original copyright for The Bread Tray was obtained by Chef De Gouy in 1944 and renewed in 1972 by his daughter. Curiously, the copyright for De Gouy’s “Creative Hamburger Cookery” was obtained by MRS. Louis P. De Gouy in 1951. This, too, contains the same dedication to De Gouy’s memory by his daughter, Jacqueline.

“Ice Cream and Ice Cream Desserts” is listed by L.P. De Gouy, who seemed to favor changing his name around from time to time. (Did he, perhaps, think that using his own Louis P. De Gouy name on all of his books might flood the market? The original copyright on “Ice Cream and Ice Cream Desserts” is 1938 by L.P. De Gouy and the copyright was renewed by his wife in 1966. It seems fair to assume that Louis P. De Gouy obtained copyrights on all of his original manuscripts whether published or not, and those copyrights were renewed by his heirs.

Not much can be found on the internet that I haven’t already shared with you. Louis P. De Gouy was only 71 years old when he passed away (I can say “only” because I am now 70, approaching 71). And yet he accomplished so much in his lifetime!

I am looking forward to reading his cookbooks. You might want to read them too. These are all “from scratch” cookbooks and I doubt you will find a can of mushroom soup or a box of onion soup mix anywhere in the lot. For those interested, the best prices I’ve found to date were on Alibris. Com.

Happy Cooking – and Happy Cookbook Collecting! Sandra Lee Smith

AMERICA SAYS GOODBYE TO BERNARD CLAYTON, JR.
Originally posted April 8, 2011

The New York Times reported the death March 28, 2011, of Bernard Clayton Jr., who passed away in Bloomington, Indiana. He was 94.

Before bread machines (and you know what I think of those) we had chefs like James Beard and Bernard Clayton Jr teaching us the art of baking breads the traditional way. I would add to that Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery” and “The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book” but unquestionably, Beard and Clayton were at the top of the list. Clayton’s detailed dependable recipes guided novices and experts alike through the nuances of baking good bread and making many other dishes.

Everyone knows who James Beard was but you may not be quite as familiar with the name of Bernard Clayton, Jr. He was a native of Indiana, a journalist and a foreign correspondent, and you may not be aware that he was also the author of at least eight cookbooks.

Bernard Clayton was a senior editor and writer for Indiana’s University News Bureau. He was formerly the Time-Life Bureau chief in San Francisco and war correspondent for the magazines during World War II. Later, he was vice president and director of public relations for two major San Francisco firms.

Clayton began his career as a journalist and foreign
correspondent but began writing cookbooks nearly 45 years ago. (You may think it quite a jump from journalist/foreign correspondent to cookbook author but I can think of at least one other person who did the very same thing; Betty Wason. And, coincidentally, Betty Wason was also born in Indiana and grew up there).

Clayton is, perhaps, best known for his cookbooks on breads and I have to confess, I don’t have any of them in my collection –yet. I do have two of Clayton’s books, “The Complete Book of Soups and Stews”, – and, one of my favorite’s “Cooking Across America”. I am partial to all cookbooks with “America” in the title and have amassed quite a collection of them. These are the closest you can get to understanding and appreciating true regional America, which is disappearing fast as we become more and more homogenized.
Clayton’s first cookbook was “The Complete Book of Breads”. This cookbook won the coveted Tastemaker cookbook award and was praised by Craig Claiborne as perhaps the best book on the subject in the English language. Clayton’s Complete Book of Pastry also won the Tastemaker cookbook award.

Clayton experienced a bread-baking epiphany while bicycling across Europe with his wife in 1965. The quality of the breads, gratifying to appetites sharpened by a hard day’s ride, impressed him. Although he had never baked so much as a muffin in his life, he embarked on a quest to explore bread and pastry making. His hobby developed into an obsession, then a career. Over the next decade, he traveled around the world and logged countless hours in his home kitchen, newly outfitted with a professional oven, mastering the techniques and the recipes that he presented in “The Complete Book of Breads.”

Clayton is also the author of “The Breads of France” and “Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Bread”. A 7,000-mile research trip that took him to bakeries all over France led to “The Breads of France” (1978), a comprehensive cookbook that guided the reader through French bread in all forms, from the leaf-shaped fougasse of Provence to the bagels served at Goldenberg’s deli in the Marais neighborhood of Paris.

“The Complete Book of Pastry,” published in 1981, dealt with its subject on a truly global scale, with recipes for strudel, South American empanadas, Italian pizzas and calzones, Greek baklava and Russian piroshki.

It was during his travels all around the world that Clayton collected recipes and put together a collection of 250 soup and 50 stew recipes for his cookbook “The Completed Book of Soups and Stews” published in 1984 by Simon & Shuster. I was charmed by his comment “Cookbook authors, like cooks, collect cookbooks…” Clayton wrote that he surrounded himself with several hundred volumes and their places on the shelves around the room are so familiar to him that he could reach for them in the dark. He lists, in The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, nearly twenty five of his favorite cookbook authors and their cookbook titles that were especially meaningful to him. A few names are not so familiar to me while others are—James Beard and Diana Kennedy, Mollie Katzen and Irma Romauer. One author I was surprised to find on his list was Ann Seranne for her editing of the Southern Junior League Cookbook. I knew who Ann Seranne was but I can’t say I’ve seen her name anywhere else recently. Then, too, this cookbook was published in 1984. He also listed some of his favorite reference volumes which included Larousse Gastronomique and The Escoffier Cook Book.

This was something I could truly relate to, as my two desks and the floor near my computer—along with several bookcases of reference material –are all within reach…periodically, I go on a rampage to put the books back on their respective shelves but before long I am surrounded by stacks of cookbooks again.

In “Cooking Across America” Bernard Clayton and his wife, Marje, decided to take to the road in search of North America’s best cookbooks. He posted this note on the wall above his typewriter: “This will be more than a book of recipes. I am as interested in the cook as a person as I am in the thorough step-by-step presentation of the recipe. I believe these together have been the principal reasons readers have found pleasure in reading and cooking with my books”.

So, for three years, this sentiment defined Bernard & Marje’s days. They drove a GMC van and set out on the odyssey of a life time, what the author often called a dream assignment.

In the beginning, Clayton thought the project would be difficult but he found that every community is as proud of its good cooks as they are of the town band or the high school basketball team. They met over 100 of North America’s best cooks and collected 250 of their favorite recipes.

I like “Cooking Across America” for the same reason I am so fond of the Browns’ “America Cooks” – these are authentic regional collections of recipes that help define what American regional cookery is all about. And, “Cooking Across America” is as much a cook’s travelogue as it is a cookbook.

The following is a list of Bernard Clayton Junior’s cookbooks along with some sources for locating his books for your collection:

The Complete Book of Breads, Alibris.com $8.00

The Breads of France and how to Bake them in your own kitchen 1978, Bernard Clayton & Patricia Wells, Amazon pre-owned starting at $25.00

The Complete Book of Pastry, 1984, Amazon pre-owned starting at $3.00

The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, 1984, Amazon new and used from 1 cent., Alibris.com $4.00

The New Complete Book of Breads, Soups, and Stews 2008, Amazon new $14.98, used $9.99 and up.

The Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, 1984, Alibris, pre-owned $8.95, Amazon starting at 4 cents, pre owned.

Cooking Across America, 1993 Amazon new from $5.99, pre-owned starting at 59 cents

The Complete Book of Small Breads, 2006, Amazon new from $12.34, pre owned starting 9.20.

I hesitated to list the higher prices; you can discover these for yourself on any of the cookbook websites. I generally consult Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Alibris, and Jessica’s Biscuit.

Do you suppose that Bernard Clayton Jr is now teaching the angels in heaven how to make angel’s biscuits? (Recipe is on pages 32-33 of Cooking Across America).

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith
Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!

***

NEW YEAR’S EVE & NEW YEAR’S DAY MEALS FOR GOOD LUCK

The following was written–and posted–a few years ago but since many new readers find my blog, I thought this might be worth a repeat. As for MY parents, pork chops and sauer kraut, with mashed potatoes, was served to company at midnight. Maybe the good luck was surviving such a meal at midnight and then going to bed with a full stomach. Or maybe they didn’t go to bed at all on New Years Eve! ***

Throughout most of written history, we know that people have eaten certain foods on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, hoping for riches, love, or other good fortune. For people of some nationalities, ham or pork has long been considered the luckiest thing to eat on New Year’s Day. You might wonder how the pig became associated with the concept of good luck but in Europe during medieval times, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Since pigs are associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat, it might be one explanation for having pork on New Year’s Day.

Austrians, Swedes, and Germans frequently chose pork or ham for their New Year’s meal and brought this tradition with them when they came to America. Germans and Swedes often picked cabbage as a lucky side dish and in my parents’ home, pork and sauerkraut was served at midnight on New Years Eve, along with mashed potatoes and creamed peas. (It might not have been so lucky, going to bed after eating such a hearty meal as after midnight!)

Turkey is considered lucky in some countries; Bolivians and residents in New Orleans follow this custom. Fish is considered lucky food by people in the northwestern part of the United States who may eat salmon. Some Germans and Poles eat herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. Other Germans eat carp.

Sometimes sweets or pastries are eaten for luck. In the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York, the Dutch settlers still enjoy these treats. Germans often ate doughnuts while the French have traditionally celebrated with pancakes. In some places, a special cake is made with a coin baked inside. (Curiously, my German grandmother fried doughnuts with a coin inside each – on the Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany, celebrated January 6th). Such cakes are traditional in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil’s Day and New Year’s at the same time. The Saint Basil’s Day cake is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. The person who gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky!

Many of the luck-bringing foods are round or ring-shaped, because this signifies that the old year has been completed. Black-eyed peas are an example of this, and they are part of one of New Year’s most colorful dishes, Hoppin’ John, which is eaten in many southern states. Hoppin’ John is made with black-eyed peas or dried red peas, combined with hog jowls, bacon, or salt pork. Rice or other vegetables may be added. The children in the family might even hop around the table before the family sits down to eat this lucky dish. In Brazil, lentils are a symbol of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice is traditional for the first meal of the New Year.

Thousands of miles away, the Japanese observe their New Year’s tradition of eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (This means “sending out the old year.”) This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life. (Or maybe the luck might be not choking on the long noodle!)

In Portugal and Spain people have an interesting custom. When the clock strikes midnight, people in these countries eat twelve grapes or raisins to bring them luck for all twelve months of the coming year.

The ancient Romans gave gifts of nuts, dates, figs, and round cakes. Northern Italians began the new year eating lentils to symbolize coins. In the Piedmont region of Italy, the New Year’s Day meal of risotto signified wealth with its abundance of small grains. Another Italian custom is to eat sweets for a year of good luck. It can be as simple as a raisin or a more elaborate, almond-filled cake in the shape of a snake. As a snake sheds its old skin and leaves it behind, this cake symbolizes leaving the past behind as a new year begins.

In Spain, you are promised good luck in the new year if, at midnight, you eat one grape with each stroke of the clock.

Dumplings are a traditional New Year’s food in northern China. Because they look like nuggets of gold, they are thought to signal good fortune.

The Vietnamese celebrate their new year in late January and eat carp – a round-bodied fish thought to carry the god of good luck on its back.

Cambodians celebrate their new year in April by eating sticky rice cakes made with sweet beans.

In Iran, the New Year is celebrated in March, when grains of wheat and barley are sprouted in water to symbolize new life. Coins and colored eggs are placed on the table, which is set for a special meal of seven foods that begin with the letter “s”.
I posed this question – special foods to welcome in the New Year – to some friends. Lorraine wrote that at her mother’s they always had Menudo on New Years; she says her friend Geri always has Black Eyed Peas. My friend Patti who lives in Cincinnati wrote “Sauerkraut, Limburger cheese & Pickled Pigs Feet…I did not partake”.

Penpal Penny who lives in Oklahoma wrote “Here on New Year’s Day ……black-eyed peas and hog jowl……for good luck, greens…..for financial good luck then of course you have to have cornbread and fried potatoes. I always fix slaw though any kind of greens will do. You just want to make sure you eat PLENTY of both of the peas and greens!! Good ole poke salad ( or as the old timers would say…. poke salit ) would be wonderful with it….some years I’ve lucked out and found plenty in the spring and had a bag or two in the freezer.” And girlfriend Sylvia wrote, “We eat black eyed peas!! I think that is a southern thing…”

From my penpal Bev, who lives in Oregon, I received this email, “My family had no New Years Eve or day traditions…When I was 40 became acquainted with a shy, soft spoken…gal when I went to Chemeketa Community College. She was taking classes as background for writing. and had in her mind a book she wanted to write…To my surprise, she was a member of MENSA. That was probably the first time I had ever heard of that elite society. Anyway, she and her husband invited us to their home for New Years Day, and served some type of beans. Seems to me it was limas. Have you heard of that before? This couple had lived in Japan but I can’t imagine beans being a good luck dish from that part of the world…” (In a subsequent email Bev decided it might have been black-eyed peas they were served).

Marge wrote “My grandmother was a first generation American born of German immigrants in Nebraska. While that was not our usual New Year’s fare, we ate sauerkraut often especially in the winter time, and she used pork tails in hers often and often pork ribs while she cooked the kraut. I rarely make sauerkraut though Dorman likes it. I know some people make (sauerkraut) with bratwurst sausage…”

Chris wrote “As far as New Year’s Eve, I remember my grandpa always bringing home herring. It came in a squat jar in kind of a vinegar sauce. I don’t buy it anymore but it’s pretty popular in the grocery stores around here during the holidays.”

Rosie wrote “I never had anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day but Bernie always used to eat pickled herring on New Year’s Day before we were married. It meant a prosperous year or something. He’s German and Belgium so I’m assuming it’s one of those traditions”

And in my household, we returned to the custom of pork and sauerkraut, reflecting the German heritage of both Bob and myself.

This New Year’s Eve, (written in 2012) my penpal Bev and her husband Leroy will be here for dinner and we are going to have sauerkraut (homemade!) and sausages. I cooked two corned beef briskets yesterday in my pressure cooker so we can have Reuben sandwiches the next day. When I was visiting them in Oregon in October, they took me to a wonderful German restaurant in Portland and we enjoyed Reuben sandwiches. I may have lost a little of my connection with German and Hungarian cuisine and maybe this New Year’s dinner will be an opportunity to re-connect. I would love to share more of my German Hungarian roots with you!

May 2013 bring us all good luck and happiness. Thank you for being such loyal subscribers to the Sandychatter blog.

Sandy@sandychatter

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

KITCHEN LEGACIES -SOMEWHERE OUT THERE

“Women have conserved a whole world, past and present, in the idiom of food. In their personal manuscripts, in locally distributed community recipe compilations, and in commercially printed cookbooks, women have given history and memory a permanent lodging. The knowledge contained in cookbooks transcends generations…” – Janet Theophano, author of “Eat My Words”, Published in 2002 by PALGRAVE, a global publishing imprint of St Martin’s Press.

How it came to be written is just as interesting as the subject matter itself, for Ms Theophano discovered what so many of us cookbook and recipe collectors ourselves have learned, that there is a lot more to be learned from a manuscript cookbook or a collection of recipes, in a small wooden box, than just recipes.

“Over the past ten years,” Ms. Theophano writes in the Introduction, “I have been researching manuscripts and printed cookery books from the United States and England from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries and finding myself constantly amazed by the richness of these sources…”
“Few of these materials,” she acknowledges, “are readily available to readers today; some have been kept in families as purely private documents, while others have languished in archives in manuscript form. Even those that were published are no longer widely known and now are generally available only in historical collections…” (and sometimes a recipe box or a manuscript cookbook is added to my collection because someone in a family knew that I collected these items).

Janet Theophano’s purpose in writing this book was first to make these materials known both to scholars and general readers, but also to open a window into the lives of women of distinct classes, cultures, and historical periods, who would otherwise be unknown to us.

What intrigues me most about the writing and publishing of EAT MY WORDS is the author’s description of a spectacular find. So many of us, cookbook collectors, writers, and researchers alike, have experienced similar events that have charted a course for us. I know I have.

Theophano writes, “My interest in cookbooks began with a chance discovery over a decade ago when I was browsing in an antique shop and stumbled across a book of writings. When I opened it, I realized I had discovered a manuscript. At first glance, the handwritten book reminded me of a journal of poetry. When I looked more closely, I discovered that it was a collection of household advice: recipes for Lady Cake and Parker House Rolls, for instance, and folk remedies for flushing the colon and dyeing hair. Inserted between the pages were newspaper clippings of other recipes as well as a poem and a letter dated August 3, 1894, and addressed ‘My Dear’ and signed ‘kiss the babies for me. John.’ The volume also contained a section of clipped recipes pasted onto the pages of an early telephone directory…”

Janet Theophano bought the book for a dollar (be still my heart!) from the shop owner, she says, reluctant to ask for even that much money, which reinforces my belief that many such treasures are thought to be worthless and are often thrown away. Ms. Theophano returned home and began to search her new treasure for clues to the identity of the owner.

“I was struck,” she recalls, “not only by this book’s recipes with their titles and ingredients but other information contained within its covers. There were letters, poems, loose recipes on scraps of paper, devotional texts, and a list of books and rhymes…”

Even so, she was unable to learn the name of the author of her treasure, and she wondered how many books like this were anonymous and how many had been discarded, lost, or destroyed because they were considered unimportant. How many were intended for publication? Or were they meant to be kept in families and given as legacies to children? Did women compile the keep these books as symbols of wifely and maternal devotion? Or as a way to give themselves identities apart from those roles? Were these books read? If so, by whom?

Which brings me up to date and what started out as a newspaper article. Some time ago, my Michigan penpal, Betsy, sent me this newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune, dated June 6, 2007, the title of which was “KITCHEN LEGACIES”.

What is a kitchen legacy for one person may not be the same thing for someone else. I know several women—not including myself—for whom old kitchen utensils are kitchen legacies. I have three old sifters (and yes, I still use whichever sifter is closest at hand when I am making cookies or a cake and need to sift the dry ingredients). About a decade ago I began collecting old glass measuring cups after finding one in green Depression glass.

My favorite was a 2-cup green glass measuring cup that I thoughtlessly poured some hot coffee into, while making brownies. The measuring cup cracked. I couldn’t bear to throw it out so now it’s part of a kitchen box collage that also contains a couple old potato mashers and one egg beater (I cracked up—no pun intended—seeing a revamped egg beater for sale recently in one of my cooking supplies catalogs–everything old is new again!)

The red or green painted handles help narrow down the age of these items. Long before I started looking for small kitchen tools, I had already collected cookie cutters (which have been a collection since the 1970s) – but with red or green wooden handles you can get a better idea of the age of the cutter. (And if rolling pins are your kind of kitchen legacy, those, too, have been manufactured with red or green handles).

Then around the late 1980s, after I met Bob and we began making weekend treks to Ventura, California, a filled recipe box came into my radar. The first box like this that I found was in an antique store in Ventura and was priced at $11.00. I didn’t buy it the first time I saw that box –I may have looked at it three or four weekends in a row before finally buying it. And once I bought (and carefully searched through) that first filled recipe box, I began wondering if there were more of these “out there, somewhere”.

And of course, there were. I now have over two hundred recipe boxes, different sizes, some filled with another person’s collection of recipes, some empty. What is the lure? Possibly, they make me think “kitchen diaries”—but backing up several decades earlier when my cookbook collection was in its infancy, I discovered a used book store in Hollywood that sold nothing BUT cookbooks. And many of the books were only a dollar each—so if I had ten dollars to spend, I could come home with ten cookbooks.

Then, one day when I was at this bookstore by myself, the owner said “I have something upstairs in my office that you might be interested in” – and he went upstairs and came back with a really worn small leather bound notebook…I opened the book and discovered it was filled with handwritten recipes. If memory serves me, I think I paid $7.00 for this handwritten notebook. I have written about it several times and for several decades had no idea who the owner, someone named Helen, was.

From a blog post, I wrote the following:

“A serendipitous event can take place when you write a story about an experience in your life, telling the story as you know it–never knowing, when it appears in print, how it may ultimately affect someone else, far away.

I wrote about Helen’s Cookbook for Inky Trail News in 2007 (but had originally written an article about it for another newsletter, the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, back in 1993) –and again, on my blog, in June, 2009.

Obviously, Helen’s cookbook has continued to fascinate me, more than 40 years after I acquired it. Its pages are fragile, now, and I handle the book with extreme care. I couldn’t treasure it more if my own mother had compiled it.

This is what I wrote in my blog in 2011: “To bring you up to date, In the 1960s, when I was just beginning to collect cookbooks, I found a bookstore in Hollywood where many cookbooks were $1.00 each. While I grabbed books off the shelves, thrilled by my find –the store owner said “I have a cookbook you may be interested in seeing” and he brought it out–it wasn’t ONE dollar, however, it was $7.00 (a lot of money for me at the time)–but I was captivated. The collection is in an old leather 3-ring binder but not your 8 1/2x 11” size binder. This one measures 5 ½ x 8 ½”.

I learned a lot about its creator by carefully reading through all the handwritten recipes and examining cards, newspaper clippings and other scraps of paper kept in a pocket on the inside of the cover. I knew that her name was Helen.

I didn’t think that Helen had any children–consequently, her handwritten collection of recipes ended up in a dusty little used book store–and has been a prize gem in my cookbook collection for over 40 years.

The book is packed with handwritten (in real ink) recipes, interspersed with pages of recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers and pasted onto the pages. Helen apparently began her collection in the early 1920s, shortly after she married. One of the earliest entries is a recipe she obtained while on her honeymoon–Helen always gave credit where credit was due; most recipes are dutifully named after the person who gave it to her. There are dozens of recipes with titles such as “Aunt Maude’s doughnuts” or “Florence’s pound cake”.

Helen liked to have dinner parties; she and her husband usually hosted Christmas dinners for eight or twelve; guests were assigned duties (everything from serving up celery stalks to putting up the card table chairs). Helen kept her menus and guest lists from the mid-1930s until after WW2. And she kept copies of her guest lists, assignments, and menus.

Helen was thrifty and often copied recipes onto the backs of envelopes or old greeting cards–sources that provided clues to who she was and how she lived. Gradually, it appears that Helen’s vision began to fail her. Her handwriting became scrawled and almost illegible. Judging from a message inside an old card, I believe her husband died first.

What happened to Helen? My guess was that she died, and when she did, her belongings were sold in an estate sale or perhaps by a distant relative. That part of Helen’s life was–until recently–a blank page; her manuscript cookbook offered no clues.

Then, earlier that year (2011), a package arrived in the mail one day, from England -Inside I found a recipe journal, very old–possibly 1920s and a letter from an ITN subscriber offering the book to me since she had read about Helen’s cookbook and thought I would appreciate this one as well.

Would I! I wrote to the sender, Anna, and in answer to her questions, provided what little other information I knew about Helen–her name and address had been printed on a sheet of stationery that ended up in the cookbook with a recipe written on it. And Anna – with the assistance of a genealogy-minded friend – soon sent me several pages of information about my Helen–where she had been born and grown up, when she had married, – and most amazing of all (to my mind) that Helen had been a psychologist and the daughter of a surgeon in Chicago.

And, as I had surmised, Helen and her husband Mart never had any children. They had lived most of their married life here in Southern California (strongly reflected in the pages of her cookbook). It would have never crossed my mind to try and discover the history of the author.

Helen’s husband did die before she; he passed away November 14, 1956. Helen died January 20, 1971, in Los Angeles.

It is the most amazing discovery–to think that this handmade cookbook I have treasured all the years – has more than just a name. It has a history. But even more amazing – that my story reached a woman in England – who provided all the details about another southern Californian whose passion, like mine, was cooking…” (my blog, 2011)

Well, after discovering Helen’s cookbook—I began wondering if there were more hand-written cookbooks “somewhere out there” – and, of course, there were –why else would I be sharing this story?

The article in the Chicago Tribune provides stories about yet another kind of Kitchen Legacy. These are hand-bound collections of family recipes—not famous families–there are certainly many published collections of celebrity recipes -–but families just like yours or mine. (in my family, we began collecting recipes in 1984, after my father passed away—but it took us twenty years to get the Schmidt family cookbook published by Morris Publishing, a company that specializes in family and church cookbooks) but rather focused on an endeavor which sidestepped the considerable cost of spiral bound publishing.

Of these homemade cookbooks, some of which, photographed for the Chicago Tribune article, the primary focus was to preserve various family favorite recipes which are often lost to posterity when a family member passes away. Within the ranks of the Schmidt family, we made a hard push to get the Schmidt family cookbook published while my sister Becky was still alive.

She passed away in 2004. When I flew to Nashville in June of 2004, it was with a duffle bag full of the Schmidt family cookbook “Grandma’s Favorite” so that Becky could give copies to her children and grandchildren.

And since publishing our family cookbook we have lost two of our aunts and one of our uncles—a sad reflection on what were once large families on both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family. (And as an aside—five of my uncles served during WW2 – in Army, Navy, and Air Force—and all made it back home to tell their stories).

So—to summarize– keep your eyes open at estate sales or even when a family member passes away and no one else wants that rolling pin or Smiley Pig cookie jar. (Ok, that’s another collection of mine).

–Sandra Lee Smith

COOKING

Cooking, and I mean this as all aspects of cooking including baking, has been such an integral part of my life that I feel it should be addressed entirely on its own.

I have told the story of my first experience in cooking. My mother was allowing me to make some muffins. I assume I was following a recipe in my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook. The ingredients and the muffin pan were on the kitchen table. My mother instructed me to leave the yellow Pyrex bowl on the table as I stirred the ingredients—but I wanted to hold the bowl in the crook of my arm like I had seen it done on TV. Needless to say, I dropped the bowl and it crashed to the floor. I ran upstairs crying.

My memory stops right there. Did I go clean up the mess? When did I try again? I surely did because I have been making many kinds of muffins almost all my life. And it took me at least a year to save up enough money to buy my mother another yellow bowl –you couldn’t buy JUST the bowl—you had to buy the entire Pyrex set, which cost about $3.95.

Somehow, I saved up the money and gave the bowl—the entire set of bowls—to my mother. I may have been about ten years old – where did I get the money? I have no idea. I don’t think I started babysitting for my older sister and some of the young mothers in our neighborhood until I was about twelve years old. I was always looking after my younger brothers.

One thing my mother did make from scratch for many years was homemade bread. She baked two large loaves of bread (in black speckled roasting pans) twice a week. I think the homemade bread must have gone by the wayside when my mother began working full time.

I began baking the cookie recipes in Ida Bailey Allen’s Service cookbook; I particularly remember making large peanut butter cookies to send to my mother who was in the hospital at the time.

I learned how to make brownies. From my mother I learned how to make salmon patties from a can of salmon. I learned how to make macaroni and cheese and macaroni with tomato sauce. When I was ten or eleven, my mother instructed me to make dinner for my three brothers (this was long before my brother Scott was born) – mom and my father were going to a dinner.

“Do we really have to eat this?” they asked Dad.
“Every bite” he told them.

Our dinner was salmon patties, canned spinach and macaroni and cheese, with cottage cheese as a salad. When we had finished eating, my brothers all stood up together, grasped their stomachs, and fell down on the floor, pretending to be unconscious. I may have cried, kicking them. They thought it was a good joke.

Salmon patties played a part throughout my life. Years later, when Bob and I had driven in our little Chinook camper to Point Arena in northern California, it was late and we were hungry. We parked in the Point Arena camping area but couldn’t sign in until the next morning. Meanwhile I began making macaroni and cheese (from the blue box) and salmon patties. The mac and cheese was only halfway done and the salmon patties a little on the undone side when we ran out of propane–but we ate them anyway.

For many years after that, whenever I made salmon patties and mac and cheese, Bob would say “This is good but you know what was really GREAT? Those salmon patties and mac and cheese you made that cold foggy night in Point Arena—“ and that was how his memory always remembered that meal.

The next day I took beautiful pictures of the Point Arena light house – many I would have enlarged and framed – and we continued north until we reached the redwoods; we camped near a river and Bob would strike up conversations with people in thirty footer motor homes—us with our little Chinook.

The day after that, we traveled south in very hot weather and so traveled west to get back at camp grounds near Morro Bay where it was always much cooler; we traveled south to reach Pismo Beach again. Throughout our stays I cooked on a two-burner little gas stove. I think we also visited the lighthouse at Morro Bay. I would say that was our best vacation. **

But getting back to my learning how to cook—I learned some things from my
mother, other things from the Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook. At some point in time, my mother acquired a Meta Given cookbook. She always maintained that Readers Digest sent the book to her, unsolicited, and she refused to pay for it. I began reading the recipes in the Meta Given cookbook and eventually acquired it for myself. I was curious about Meta Given for many years—until I began researching her and writing about her life and cookbooks.

In a blog article I posted in 2013, I wrote:

“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…”

Over time, as readers found my blog articles (http://sandy chatter.wordpress.com) about Meta Given on Google, they began to write to me and I learned more about her. (there are over six hundred comments in response to this post).

Mean while—back in the 1950s—I was a teenager learning how to cook. In my sophomore year at Mother of Mercy High School, I took cooking classes with Mrs. Cunningham—a dedicated and delightful teacher if ever there was one, who treated cooking as a science. It was there I began to understand that if you could read and follow directions—you could cook–or bake.

Mrs. Cunningham realized that one other classmate and I had more knowledge about cooking than most of her students and so would single us out to take messages to the principal or run other errands. Once a week or so, we were assigned one of the stoves in the cooking class and would make something. I remember once making cream of pea soup out of canned peas—which gives me something to think about these many years later as I make split pea soup with dried peas. Mrs. Cunningham’s approach may have been to get the soup made in a class of 45 minutes. For the life of me, I can’t remember what else we cooked in that class.

At the age of eighteen, I married a boy whose mother was from West Virginia. I didn’t have the best of relationships with his mother but I did learn how to make white (southern) gravy from her, as well as perfect fried chicken and fresh string beans cooked until they almost fell apart. (The fresh green beans was a departure from my mother’s CANNED green beans—speaking of which, my mother always cooked canned corn, peas, green beans, asparagus, beets; if there was a canned version of vegetables, that’s what we grew up on. I nevertasted fresh asparagus until we had been living in California for a few years. Ditto fresh spinach.

Come to think of it, I never tasted a steak until we moved to California. Or avocadoes! Or Clam Chowder! Or Yogurt! Or Artichokes!

In 1961, my father bought several copies of a cookbook being sold by one of his coworkers. That book was the 50 ANNIVERSARY COOKBOOK by WOMEN’S GUILD MATTHEW’S UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST (in Cincinnati) – for something like one dollar each. He gave one of the cookbooks to me but several years would pass by before I began to wonder if there were other church and/or club cookbooks such as the one Dad bought and asking myself how I could go about finding those cookbooks. I wrote a letter to a magazine called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Family Circle or Woman’s Day that are still being published). Women’s Circle was published by Tower Press and was entirely made up of letters sent in by women like myself—looking for a book or penpals or any number of other things. I was looking for a Culinary Press cookbooklet of Hungarian recipes for my friend Peggy whose husband was Hungarian) – I think I received well over two hundred letters—some for the Hungarian cookbooklet – I bought two copies for $1.00 each, one for Peggy and one for myself—and began answering the other letters and buying many different cookbooks that formed the nucleus of my cookbook collection.

And it was a revelation to discover the thousands of church and club cookbooks being published over the decades. It was how I knew what to do when my sons’ grammar school PTA announced the desire to compile a cookbook. I immediately contacted the woman whose name was on a flyer my sons brought home from school in 1971—two of those women became life time girlfriends – and our cookbook, RECIPE ROUNDUP was published in 1971.

Moving to California was the proving ground for many foods and many more recipes. I began collecting cookbooks in 1965—some years later, I began collecting filled recipe boxes; I didn’t want just an empty recipe box—I wanted the collection of recipes that can sometimes be found in recipe boxes that turn up in antique stores or even thrift shops. I wanted to find out what recipes other women collected. I began to think of them as the Kitchen Diaries.

And so here I am, in my 70s and not doing very much cooking. I continue to bake but generally give the cookies or cakes away—often to people I am bowling with. Bob passed away in 2011. Jim and I divorced in April of 1986. I met Bob around in August of that year. We did a lot of canning and he was a willing helper. We entered the L.A. County Fair for about a decade, proudly displaying our blue ribbons (and even the red and yellow ribbons).

If I have learned anything along the way—it’s that if you can’t BE cooking, you can at least WRITE about cooking.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Reference (see also)
SEARCHING FOR META GIVEN, originally posted 2/14/11. UPDATED JUNE 22, 2013
BATTERED. TATTERED, STAINED PAGES IN A CHURCH COOKBOOK, June, 2011
WHEN IT’S NOT A BATTERED, TATTERED, STAINED CHURCH COOKBOOK, WHAT IS IT? August, 2011