Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS

FROM AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE TO THE AMERICAN TABLE PART TWO

As promised, I am embarking on the remaining cookbooks with America or American in their title. I haven’t counted up the books that are in stacks at my feet. Over the weekend I found one that wasn’t with the other Americana cookbooks and I suspect there may be more. Additionally, I have a number of books that were in the Time Life series –one in front of me was a cookbook I found in a thrift store—no, my memory isn’t that fantastic – but this cookbook has a price that was written onto the cover with a red crayon—I know that any others with a red crayon price came from this thrift store—and I will need to search through all of the cookbooks to see what I can find. The problem I faced when we began unpacking all the cookbooks that were in storage, back in 2009, and I was trying to find shelf space for everything. (too many books, not enough shelf space). -sls

First, today, I want to tell you about a hardcover book bearing the title COOKING AMERICAN, written by Sidney w. Dean. Subtitled on the dust jacket, is the following: “This book establishes once and for all the gourmet tradition of American cuisine. It gives American food and cooking the prestige and glamour (sic) far too long attributed solely to foreign cooking.
Over 800 recipes gathered from all parts of the United States and Canada” Since Canada is included, that explains the variation in Glamor vs glamour. Where ever a Canadian spelling is used, I will type it as written in the book.
Included in COOKING AMERICAN offers chapter such as “For the Festive Occasion”, “Sauces for fish, meat, vegetables and poultry” “Outdoor Cookery” and quite a few others. “Cooking American” was published in 1957 with Illustrations from Dorothy Maas. **
From TASTE OF HOME” is a large and colorful hardbound cookbook with 735 reader recipes (I like the inclusion of a nod to the readers who contributed their recipes—this is the first time I have come across this). On the other hand, I have diligently searched for the copyright date, or the date RECIPES ACROSS AMERICA was released for distribution—but I can’t find the copyright date. This is a large cookbook and one of the reasons it’s so large, perhaps, is that each recipe is accompanied by a colorful photo of the recipes. In Part 1 you may recall, there was a cookbook titled “A TASTE OF AMERICA” also from Taste of Home magazine. **
THE BEST AMERICAN RECIPES 2004-2005 has a small subtit
le, “The year’s top picks from books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet” and was edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens, with a foreword by Bobby Flay. (I had no idea who the two women were but easily recognized the name of Bobby Flay—I am on the internet and watch a lot of cooking shows—that’s how come I recognized Bobby Flay’s name. I turned to the Introduction, written by the two women and it opens with “We never quite know what we’re going to find when we begin combing through hundreds of cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers looking for the best recipes of the year—which is a good part of why this is such an exciting enterprise…it is not unlike a massive culinary treasure hunt..” (as I continued to read, I couldn’t help but think “hey! I’d like a job like that!”
The Best American Recipes for 2004-2005 was published in 2004 by Houghton Miffln Company in New York. **

My curiosity was piqued so I did what I always do next when I become curious – I googled the two names and discovered a wealth of information. Now, I don’t know if all of the information I unearthed represents a lot of cookbooks such as the one I own by the two women There are numerous listings but no indication that all of these are books or, perhaps, articles written by the two women. If there was one hardbound boo k of the Best American recipes for 200 4-2005, are there other books like this one? **

COOKING HEALTHY ACROSS AMERICA is a healthy exchange cookbook by JoAnna M. Lund with Barbara Alpert. I know I have seen the name JoAnna Lund before, elsewhere. This cookbook is spiral bound and was published in 2000. **

Along similar lines is a hardbound cookbook published by Prevention Magazine, titled LOW-FAT COOKING, and subtitled” FEATURING ALL-AMERICAN FOOD. This cookbook was edited by Jean Rogers, the food editor for Prevention Magazine. The book is packed with information—and we know now that you don’t have to be “on a diet” to want to eat healthy foods and have a healthy lifestyle. For reasons I can’t explain, I am unable to find a publishing date or a copyright date in this cookbook. Still, it’s well done and interesting. **

And while I am expanding on a similar theme, the next cookbook is THE NEW AMERICAN FARM COOKBOOK, subtitled “More than 200 recipes featuring today’s naturally and organically grown foods”. Written by Linda and Fred Griffith, THE NEW AMERICAN FARM COOKBOOK was first published in 1993.

In the Introduction, we read, “Perhaps it was Odessa Piper who started us off on this journey. When we first met Odessa at her wonderful restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, she said that the key to the quality o what she sent to the tables of her customers was the quality of what her suppliers to her. And her suppliers, it turned out, were farmers in her neighborhood, people she knew…”

So, THE AMERICAN FARM COOKBOOK is a combination of recipes and farmers in a particular region selling their produce to restaurants. (if I knew of a restaurant like this anywhere in my region, believe me I would share it with you! **

Next, I want to share with you a cookbook titled AMERICAN BUFFET, favorite regional recipes from members of the General Federation of Women’s Club, World’s largest and oldest women’s volunteer volunteer service organization (or WFWC Volunteer) which was published by Favorite Recipes Press (which I have written about in the past) and this collection of recipes was published in 1993. This is a nicely compiled cookbook with hidden spiral binding ( which just means, you can see the spiral binding inside the book but it is not visible from the outside—fyi, this type of binding is a lot more durable than ordinary spiral binding.

In the inside of American Buffet is a brief history of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs along with a couple black and white photographs explaining how they came about; I know we take for granted, today, of all the rights and liberties women have in 2017—but those rights didn’t always s exist. Someone – women – had to go to bat to receive those rights. (women were often thrown in jail for marching for women’s equal rights).

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs traces its roots back to Jane Cunningham Croly, an accomplished New York newspaperwoman who wrote under the pen name of Jenny June. Indignant that she and other women were denied admittance to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens in 1868 at the all-male New York Press Club simply because they were women. She determined to organize a club for women only. The name chosen for this club was Sorosis, a Greek word meaning “aggregation, aa sweet flavor of many fruits”
As Sorosis approached its 21st year, Mrs. Croly proposed a conference in New York that brought together delegates from 61 women’s clubs” There is more to the story and I am guessing that more can be found on Google.

The collection of recipes in AMERICAN BUFFET are accompanied by the name of the contributor, along with city and state and the origin of the contributor’s membership. This is a great cookbook for your collection replete with recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere. **
AN AMERICAN PLACE, by Larry Forgione, and subtitled ‘Celebrating the Flavors of America” is the proprietor of An American Place in NY City and the1766 Tavern in Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck NY. Published by William Morrow and Company in 1996. I have to confess, An American Place was a “gotcha” to my mind as I wasn’t expecting An American Place to be the name of a restaurant—but how could I, a southern Californian heart and soul know what is popular in New York City?

The Culinary visionary (Larry Forgione) largely responsible for the rebirth of Farmers’ markets across America and the availability of such quality ingredients as free-range chicken and the field green salad, finally produced his master cookbook.
Well, we know, don’t we, that farmers markets have spread throughout the country but its gratifying to learn who have been instrumental in creating such markets.

Recently (2006 and 2027) , I was visiting a niece in Bothell, Washington, north of Seattle—and whenever I have been to visit Leslie, I have enjoyed visiting some of the farmers markets in her area. In a paragraph in the dust jacket of An American Place, I read “Forgione’s passionate return to freshness has given birth to such cottage industries as local goat cheese producers, growers of specialty berries and field lettuces, the proliferation of smoked and cured fish and shellfish of all kinds, the return of old-fashioned apple varieties, even then raising of buffalo, which he brought back to the American menu nearly a full century since it last appeared.
On both of the above my recent visits to Washington, nieces (and my sister) have gone out to get jelly jars for me and we made blackberry jam the first time and a combination of blackberry and other berries such as raspberries and strawberries the second time. I could go crazy over the abundance of large beautiful fresh blackberries! **

BEST OF THE BEST FROM AMERICA cookbook is, quite obviously, by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, editors of the Best of the Best state series.

BEST OF THE BEST FROM AMERICA COOKBOOK published in 2005 by Quail Ridge Press, includes a full-color “we did it!” section that tells the story of how they accomplished the task of finding the best recipes in each state.

“More than two decades ago,” they write in the Preface, “we set out on a journey to find out what people across America liked to cook. Since the two of us have favorite recipes that are quite different—and we’re from neighboring states—Louisiana and Mississippi—we wondered, what are the favorite recipes and how are they different in Michigan and Arizona and Pennsylvania? We wanted to know what dishes are served for family meals, made for parties and tailgates, brought to church socials, etc. the pursuit of this goal proved to be the adventure of a lifetime. Not only did we discover extraordinary recipes, we met wonderful people and got a chance to visit a great portion of our beautiful country…”

BEST OF THE BEST FROM AMERICA COOKBOOK tells the story of how they accomplished the task of finding the best recipes in each state. Everywhere they traveled they asked about local fare and did their best to find it and taste it. They discovered that local cookbooks best revealed what people in that area cooked and often their stories attached to the recipes told them why. They received permission to use the recipes and in exchange listed the region’s cookbooks in a special “catalog of contributing cookbooks” section in each of the Best of the Best cookbooks so that others could purchase a copy of their book (I mentioned previously that a girlfriend and I would send for the local cookbooks referenced in those Best of the Best cookbooks—I no longer remember how many we sent away for – quite a few).

There is more to the book – and then there is the entire Best of the Best from America cookbook for you to delve into. **

I have AMERICA’S BEST RECIPES Hometown Collection, large spiral bound cookbooks, published by Oxmoor House for 1983 to Benefit he U.S. Ski Team, then 1988,1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994 as well as 1995, with just the titled America’s Best Recipes.
There are probably more books in the collection, with other dates—the above is what I have on my book shelves. **

Years ago—particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, I would send for any and all cookbooks published by various American food companies. For instance, A CELEBRATION OF COOKING IN AMERICA, subtitled Timeless Recipes from the Kitchens of Pet. Generally, these were recipes using Pet Evaporated Milk or other products created by Pet. The cookbook has hidden spiral binding and a colorful cover showing pumpkin pie, a couple of tacos and a few other baked dishes on the back cover. A Celebration of Cooking in America was published in 1984. **

Another cookbook from a food company is Land O’ Lakes AMERICAN HERITAGE COOKBOOK, subtitled Time-honored recipes from the Family Farm, published in 1999 by Land O Lakes and Creative Publishing. the American Heritage Cookbook is oddly shaped as cookbooks go, and was published in 1999. On the dust jacket is written “American Heritage Cookbook features over 50 original recipes submitted by Land O’Lakes cooperative members and employees. These recipes not only reflect the wholesome goodness of rural American life, but feature some of Land O’Lakes most delicious, high quality dairy products.

These recipes, hand-picked by Land O’Lakes test kitchen home economists, were chosen for their over-all flavor and great family appeal…”

Recipes are accompanied by beautiful color photographs of most recipes. I may have to Xerox some of the cookie recipes featured in American Heritage Cookbook.

(note—I confess, I don’t take my cookbooks into the kitchen—I copy recipes I want to try on my printer and make a note where it came from. I’m a stickler for keeping my cookbooks pristine.—sls) **

BERNARD CLAYTON was a cookbook author whose work I admired. Sadly, Mr. Clayton passed away a few years ago, in 2011.

He was the author of the Breads of France, Complete Book of Pastry, as well as Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads, Soups and Stews, and the Complete Book of Breads (a copy of this last one is sitting on my coffee table; I go through it frequently.

Well, the next cookbook I want to mention to you is Bernard Clayton’s COOKING ACROSS AMERICA, subtitled “Cooking with more than 100 of North America’s best cooks and 250 of their favorite recipes”.

There are a number of cookbook authors who have written about the recipes found in one end of the USA to the other. I want to share with you Bernard Clayton’s “Cooking Across America”

On the dust jacket of “Cooking Across America” is the following: Bernard Clayton and his wife, Marie, decided to go on the road in search of North America’s best cooks. He posted this brief 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 reason readers have found pleasure in reading and cooking with my books”
So, “for three years this sentiment defined their days. Driving a GMC van, they set out on the odyssey of a lifetime—what Clayton, a veteran news reporter and foreign correspondent before becoming a best-selling cookbook author, often called a ‘Dream Assignment’.”

There is a great deal more written on the dust jacket and for anyone wanting to know more, this will give you a good idea. “Cooking Across America” is a big thick cookbook explaining in Bernard Clayton’s own words what their adventure was like. **

“THE AMERICAN HERITAGE COOKBOOK” subtitled “more than 500 easy-to-make recipes complete and up-to-date together with 40 Historic Menus, was published in 1964, where new the book cost $6.95. It was compiled by the editors of American Heritage, the magazine of history. Recipes are accompanied by their historic background; in the dust jacket editors have written “More than 500 great traditional recipes, old and new, are gathered together in this new larger-size version of a perennial best seller. It is a book that views our past in terms of the foods our forefathers ate and the drinks they drank..”

This is one of those books I have to read through, first, taking in the historic background before going back to choose recipes to try. It’s also the kind of book I would have gone through in search of historic documentations when I was writing for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the 1990s. **

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”, an illustrated portfolio of recipes and culinary history, was written by none-other than Louis Szathmary; on the dust jacket cover they have listed him as “Author of The Che’s Secret Cook Book” published in 1974. I admit, I did a double-take when I came across this book—I honestly was unaware that I have it.

Followers of Sandy’s Chatter may recall that I have written about Chef Szathmary on more than one occasion. He has been my idol for years. I couldn’t appreciate him more if I discovered he was a long lost relative of mine.

An introduction to American Cookery, AMERICAN GASTRONOMY is illustrated with over 90 etchings, woodcuts, prints and photographs that together offer a fascinating look into the kitchens and dining rooms of yesteryear. Also included are reproductions of old advertisements of American food products and bills of fare from famous restaurants…”
Judging from the dust jacket, this cookbook was published at the time that Chef Szathmary was owner-chef of The Bakery, a restaurant of international fame located in Chicago; he was also the author of the best selling “Chef’s Secret Cook Book” and editor of a 15 Volume series of classic American cookbooks published by the Arno Press (I have yet to come across any of the cookbooks in the 15 volume series) **

A large cookbook about the size of a 3-ring binder is a book titled AMERICA’S HOMETOWN RECIPE BOOK, 712 Favorite RECIPES FROM MAIN STREET U.S.A., edited by Barbara Greenman.
This book has hidden spiral binding and a beautiful layout of recipes titled in red or blue backgrounds and I discovered, at the back of the book, recipe cards you can remove for anyone you want to share one of the recipes with. (That’s a first!)

Barbara Greenman, I discovered, developed and edited many cookbooks including The American Century Cookbook by Jean Anderson, Family Circle All-time Favorite Recipes, Family Circle best-ever Cakes & Cookies, and the America Loves—series by Linda West Eckhardt. She is also the editor of Back of the Box Cooking and back of the Box Cooking: 30 minute meals. **

The Four-Star American Community Cook Book with more than 350 Best-Ever Regional recipes chosen from America’s Community Cookbooks with An Patterson Dee, Editor. There is a lengthy introduction but the most outstanding feature of FOUR STAR AMERICAN COMMUNITY COOK BOOK are the recipes, with signatures of the recipe’s contributor and what community cookbook is the source of the recipe. **

AMERICA THE EDIBLE, subtitled “A hungry history from sea to dining sea, by Adam Richman, published in 2010, is yet another collection of recipes from far and wide. Writes the author in the Introduction, “American Edible is a collection of love letters to some of my favorite food places, their histories and the time I spent there. It is an admittedly idiosynernatic (sic) survey. These cities are a pastiche of the places I’ve lived, places work has taken me, places wanderlust and fate have plopped me in the middle of. There was no particular rhyme or reason to their selection, merely the fact that I have had wonderful and varied food experiences in each…” Per the dust jacket, we learn that Richman the exuberant host of Travel Channel’s Man vs Food, has criss-crossed the continent in search of the best eating experiences. **

Pierre franey’s COOKING IN AMERICA is the companion book to the public television series was written by Pierre Franey and Richard Flaste, and was published in 1992 by Alfred A. Knopf. Franey has written twelve cookbooks, counting this one, and his “60 minute Gourmet” column is syndicated nationally. Flaste is a longtime associate of Franey and has collaborated with him on two earlier books on food.

In the dust jacket to COOKING IN AMERICA, we learn that Pierre Franey celebrates American food—the rich lode of fresh produce and the cooking skill, ingenuity and lore that are among our national treasures—and provides us with 200 delectable recipes that are in themselves a celebration.

“Born in Burgundy and trained as a chef in the great French tradition, Franey has become a true champion of American cooking…he visits restaurants and their kitchens, from the elegant River Café in New York and the vibrant Tra Vigne in the Napa Valley of California…we follow him across the country as eh searches out local specialties and secrets, talking to all sorts of Americans, from crabbers in Maryland to citrus growers in Florida, from cattle ranchers in Nevada to strawberry an artichoke growers in California”.

Pierre Franey’s Cooking in America is richly illustrated by Lauren Jarrett and was published in 1992 by Alfred A Knopf, Inc. It is a beautiful hardbound cook with a glossy cover and a dust jacket with a photograph of Pierre Franey—and a comment at the end of the dust jacket, stating “This is a fitting tribute to America’s extraordinary culinary heritage” – I would say Amen to that. **

“EATING IN AMERICA” by Waverly Root and Richard De Rochemont is not a cookbook! From Google, we learn that rather, it is a history. It chronicles the history of American food and eating customs from the time of its earliest explorers to the present. Waverly Root (1903-1982) was an American journalist and writer who became widely known for his writings on food. EATING IN AMERICA was published in 1976. As I wrote above, no recipes. This is a comprehensive history. Well done! – sls **

ALL AMERICAN COOKBOOK II, edibles from notables is a spiral bound cookbook collection of recipes collected by Walsworth Publishing Company to assist yearbook staffs across the country to improve the quality and educational value of their publication. This is a spiral bound cookbook published in 1985 (and I have never seen a volume I) – more of a fun cookbook filled with recipes from who’s who in America back in 1985. Many of the contributors were in politics—governors and U.S. Representatives (such as Bill Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas!) You will have a good time checking out who contributed to ALLAMERICAN COOKBOOK II. **

THE I HEART AMERICA COOKBOOK from the American Legion Auxiliary from Tucson, Arizona is more of a booklet than a book and I am unable to find a publishing date in it—even so, it meets my criteria for something with “America” in the title—like so many of my cookbooks or cookbooklets, I no longer remember where I found it.

I have a Time Life American Regional Cookbook by the editors of Time-Life Books. This cookbook was published in 1978 by Little Brown and Company.

“Take 350 years of refining savory dishes brought by immigrants from all over the world, add the best of hundreds of new recipes inspired by the New World’s cornucopia of tempting foodstuffs and the result is a truly fine native product: the Time Life American Regional cookbook.

This compendium is a bountiful collection of more than 500 national and regional favorites as well as specialties from some of the nation’s best restaurants…this handsome book includes 45 pages of color pictures and step by step sequence photographs showing exactly how to prepare various dishes…” **
The following are a few of my absolute favorite cookbooks, kept in a bookcase near my computer for easy referencing:

THE AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK, The most popular Recipes of the 20th Century is from notable cookbook author Jean Anderson, published in 1997 **

AMERICAN HOME COOKING by Cheryl Alters Jaison and Bill Jamison, contains over 300 recipes celebrating our rich traditions of home cooking, published in 1999 **

AMERICAN APPETITE, subtitled “The coming of age of a cuisine” is by Leslie Brenner, published in 1999. **

THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD & DRINK, subtitled with more than 500 recipes for American classics is by John F. Mariani, was also published in 1999. **

I should mention something about my cookbooks—when used book stores began to sell their books at reduced prices before closing their doors—I haunted the used book stores in the San Fernando Valley and bought all I could afford. I don’t think there are any more used book stores in southern California. Amazon.com picked up where the used book stores left off.

It was a sad day for me when a girlfriend and I, back in 2008, drove up the California Coast and stopped in San Luis Obispo – I wanted to share my favorite used book store with girlfriend Sharon—and it was gone. Just an empty store front where one of my favorite used book stores used to be.

For that matter, I think—at one time, back when, there were four or five bookstores in SLO, within walking distance to one another—and Bob and I would make a point to visit all of them when we were spending a holiday in the area.

Quite possibly I bought many of the cookbooks I have listed in FROM AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE TO THE AMERICAN TABLE, PARTS ONE AND TWO in various used bookstores in the San Fernando Valley, in Burbank, California, Reseda, and San Luis Obispo. Nowadays, I buy most of my pre-owned books through Amazon.com—and its gratifying to me when I buy a pre-owned cookbook and it comes to me from a book dealer in a different part of the U.S.A. They are out there—you just have to know how to find them.

Sandra Lee Smith

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CROSS CREEK REVISITED

THE FOLLOWING WAS ALSO ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2011:

CROSS CREEK REVISITED

Asked if she had to choose between people and trees, she chose trees.
“Cross Creek is a bend in a country road, by land, and the flowing of the Lochloosa Lake into Orange Lake, by water…” (In first chapter of “Cross Creek”).

When I first conceived of the idea of writing about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and her Cross Creek Cookbook, the year was 1998 and I was writing, at the time, for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a newsletter for cookbook collectors. I mistakenly thought, at the time, that hardly anyone knew about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings anymore, aside from school children reading her classic Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Yearling”.

I would reintroduce her to the world – at least the world of Cookbook Collectors Exchange subscribers. Was I ever mistaken! Not only is Rawlings’ home in Cross Creek a National Historical Site, there is even a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and books about her life continue to be published, while many of her previously unpublished works have found publishers – and more importantly – an audience. Google Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and you will get 351,000 hits—and it’s thanks to Google that I have been able to find some of Rawlings’ lesser known works. Some of her previously unpublished material has been published in the past decade.

(A list of the books by MKR and as list of books about her and Cross Creek can be found at the end of this article).

She was a woman far ahead of her time and at a later time in history, would have been considered a feminist, yet—she was a latter-day pioneering woman in the continental United States.

She was an opinionated individual at a time when women were expected to be nothing more than “the little woman”, cooking and cleaning for the man of the house. In addition to her career as a writer, she maintained her orchards of oranges and pecans, often under the most difficult of situations and sometimes with very little assistance.

Rawlings was enormously popular amongst her friends, comfortable whether hobnobbing with the rich and famous or living with her impoverished scrub neighbors…at the same time she was a very private individual who relished her privacy and solitude. She could be at ease whether visiting the White House or attending a play on Broadway in New York—or hunting and fishing with the “fellows” – whether those fellows were themselves famous writers or her neighbor Floridian crackers*. She was openly frank about her preference to the company of men, rather than women.

(*The term “cracker” is very old, dating back to the time when the driver of oxen cracked yards of rawhide whips over his beasts. “There are ‘Georgia Crackers’ and ‘Florida Crackers’ Rawlings once wrote, saying “one hates the other as mothers and daughters sometimes hate.”)

In 1928, accompanied by her husband Charles, Marjorie first set eyes on Cross Creek. It was love at first sight for Marjorie – for Charles, maybe not so much. Marjorie was enchanted with its remoteness and the simplicity of life and immediately felt a connection to the land. (I can relate to this feeling, it was what I felt the first time I saw the Arleta house in the San Fernando Valley).

The property came with two cows, two mules, 150 chicken coops—and an old Ford truck. They had hoped to live off the citrus groves—that didn’t happen—but they WERE able to live off of Rawlings’ income as a writer. There is some speculation as to what ended the marriage between Marjorie and Charles. He didn’t like Florida or he may not have been able to deal with a wife more successful than he. One of the last things Charles said to her at the time of their divorce was “Of course, you realize you have no friends. Nobody likes you.” (Any of us who have had similar sentiments directed towards us at the end of a marriage could emphasize with Marjorie at this time in her life.) Then, too, Charles may have found Marjorie’s SUCCESS as a writer a bitter pill to swallow when he, himself, was also a writer but not nearly as successful .

Maybe sour grapes on Charles’ part? The world knows who Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was—what does the world know about Charles, except that he was her first husband?

Some years later Marjorie would remarry and that marriage would endure, even though she and her husband often lived apart while she pursued her career as a writer and he operated a hotel in St. Augustine, often causing rumors to fly that their marriage was unstable when, in fact, it was very secure.

Of her one writer – Roger L. Tarr writes, “Rawlings was not a feminist, at least not in the post-modern sense, but she was a strong willed woman who detested role playing. Equality of opportunity was paramount to her…what (she) fought against all her life—was the powerlessness of the average woman.”

In “Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings” which Roger L. Tarr edited, he writes that “Rawlings interest in the concept of justice and its application to human endeavor had a personal as well as a public context.

Her life in Florida led her to one of the most difficult issues she ever faced: racism. As a child growing up in Washington, D.C., and as a student at the University of Wisconsin, she had witnessed first-hand the effects of racial injustice. However, life in the South was quite another thing. There racism was blatant and it was accepted as a fact of life. When she moved to Florida, Rawlings by her own admission fell into the ethos of racism; it was all around her*….”

*(Sandy’s note: From 1979 to 1982, my husband and children and I lived in Florida. Racism was alive and well these many decades after Rawlings’ life—and what disturbed me most is that the racism was blatant).

Tarr continues, “Her (Rawlings) personal dilemma soon became a professional one as well. If she were to portray accurately the situation and the language of the people she wrote about, if she were to be honest…for the sake of historical record, how was she to treat the subject of racism? Her Cracker friends and Cracker characters were with few exceptions, racists.

Her dilemma was not unlike that of any writer whose subject is the Deep South. What was even more traumatic for her as the realization that she herself as often racist in attitude and in her use of language. Yet she had a deep commitment to the presentation and ennobling of the black culture…”
Prior to the publication of “The Yearling” in 1938, Rawlings’ fiction did not focus on the black culture. I think an important factor in her change of attitude were the years in close contact with African Americans, with the people who lived and worked with her from day to day and whose companionship became important I her life.

Writes Tarr, “Majorie’s personal attitudes began to change and in consequence so did the language of her fiction. By the mid 1940s, Rawlings admitted, ‘There is no question that we must all go out for ‘full equality’, meaningless though the phrase may be. Anything else is the height of hypocrisy’. (I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s oft-repeated quote by Oprah Winfrey, “When you know better, you do better.”)

With regard to women’s causes, Rawlings was outspoken on these since her student days at the University of Wisconsin.

Rawlings counted as friends many other famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Marcia Davenport, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell and Zora Neal Hurston. Rawlings even managed to hobnob a bit with Eleanor Roosevelt (who was a firm and famous advocate for the rights and equality of all people). Rawlings was once a guest at the White House and even slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.

You may know her best as the author of a most successful novel, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for her book “The Yearling” which went through twenty-one printings in just two years. “The Yearling” was also made into a movie, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman.

Or, perhaps, if you are a cookbook collector like I am, you may be familiar with Rawlings’ almost-equally-famous “Cross Creek Cookery” I am fortunate enough to first editions of both “Cross Creek” and “Cross Creek Cookery.”
Rawlings did write prior to moving to Cross Creek; she and husband Charles both worked for the Courier-Journal in Louisville Kentucky for several years—he as a reporter and she as a feature writer.

It was a difficult time and Rawlings struggled after graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1918 to make her mark on the literary world. The USA had just emerged from World War I. She moved to New York City where she found employment, eventually, as a writer and editor for the War Work Counsel at their national headquarters of the YWCA. In her spare time she continued to attempt to sell her short stories and poetry, sometimes with a bit of success. From 1926 to 1928 she wrote nearly 500 poems for the Rochester Times-Union under the title “Songs of a Housewife”. (Roger L. Tarr edited the poems and published them under this title in 1996).

However, after a few years working in Kentucky, the pair realized their journalistic work in Louisville had little future and they returned to Rochester, where Charles became a traveling salesman but Marjorie was unable to find a market for her short stories. By 1922 she was writing feature articles for the Rochester Evening Journal and the Rochester American, under her own by-line. Occasionally, Marjorie’s feature stories made the front page of the Rochester Sunday American. A few years passed by with Charles trying to sell shoes and Marjorie attempting to sell her stories by free-lance writing*.

*(Sandy’s note: *It’s a curious paradox in writing—you need an agent to sell your work, but most agents don’t want to take you on unless you have had success selling. This is something I learned firsthand many years ago. There is an expression in writing, “Over the transom” which refers to an unsolicited manuscript, submitted by an author without the benefit of an agent.)

Feeling they needed a vacation, Charles and Marjorie sailed from New York down the East Coast and into the mouth of the St John’s River, on a Clyde Line Steamer. They soon discovered that the north central interior of Florida was nothing like the famous Florida Gold Coast—but it was during this visit, while Marjorie visited the scrub area, fished for bass on the lakes and took a boat trip on the74-mile long Ocklawaha River—that she “discovered” the remoteness and the mystery of the scrub, and the simplicity of the local people’s daily lives.

“Let’s sell everything and move south,” Marjorie suggested to Charles. “How we could write!” – And he agreed. They asked a friend to look for a place where they could grow citrus while they tried to find a market for their writing. In July, their friend told them of a place, 74 acres, a shabby farmhouse, two story bar, 3300 orange trees and 800 pecan trees. The price was $9,000.

Using a small inheritance Marjorie had received from her mother’s estate, they paid $7,400.00 down with the balance to be paid off at $500.00 a year.
“When I came to the Creek,” Marjorie writes in “Cross Creek”, “and knew the old grove and farmhouse at once as home, “there was some terror, such as one feels in the first recognition of a human love, for the joining of person to place, as of person to person, is a commitment to shred sorrow, even as to shared joy. The farmhouse was all dinginess. It sat snugly then as now under tall old orange trees, and had a simple grace of line, low rambling and one-storied….”

She relates that the house was cracked and gray for lack of paint; there was a tin roof that would have ruined a mansion, and the porch was an excrescence, scarcely wide enough for one to pass in front of the chairs. “The yard was bare and spotted with sandspurs,” she recalled, “with three lean Duchess rosebushes, left behind to starve, like cats….”

“Inside the house…the walls were painted a battleship gray and the floors a muddy ochre. The brick fireplaces were walled over with tin and filled with a year’s rubbish…” It took the Rawlings’ four years before the gray of the last room was decently covered with white, money for paint being scarce, and time so filled with other work that an hour with a brush was a stolen pleasure…”

But for Marjorie, it was love at first sight.

In writing of her love for this place, she wrote—again, in “Cross Creek”, “…I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to. In the lakeside hammock there is a constant stirring in the treetops as though on the stillest days the breathing of the earth is yet audible. The Spanish moss sways a little always. The heavy forest thins into occasional great trees, live oaks and palms and pines. In spring, the yellow Jessamine is heavy on the air. In summer the red trumpet vine shouts from the gray trunks, and in autumn and winter the holly berries are small bright lamps in the half-light….”

Marjorie began to sell some of her short stories, or sketches, about people and life in the Florida scrub—usually based on real people and true incidents, following the axiom to writers to write about the things you know best. It got the author embroiled in a lawsuit and the dissolution of a friendship between herself and another Cross Creek inhabitant, Zelma
Cason.

Zelma sued Marjorie for libel, then later changed the charge to invasion of privacy. It was the first time in Florida history that a case pitted privacy rights against freedom of speech right. Up to then, authors had been describing real people and using real names as a matter of course.
The courtroom battle dragged on for years, ending up in the Florida Supreme Court; the trial in Gainesville circuit court had ended up with a not guilty verdict. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the verdict—but only awarded Zelma $1.00. (She had asked for $100,000). The case had taken five years and cost Marjorie $32,000 in legal fees. The friendship between the two women was severed. Zelma wept at Marjorie’s funeral—one wonders, was the lawsuit the result of poor advice given to Zelma? Oddly enough, the two women are buried not far apart from each other in Antioch Cemetery, near Island Grove, a few miles from Cross Creek.

What was certainly far more costly, in the long run, was the affect the trial had on Marjorie’s health, which was often precarious to begin with, and her psyche.

Mostly, though, the people who lived in Cross Creek didn’t read and were generally unimpressed with her other-worldly fame as a writer. One time, for lack of having anything else handy at the time, Marjorie used a copy of The Yearling to kill a snake that had gotten into the house. In describing the incident to her handyman afterwards, he chuckled and said “It sho’ do come in handy to write books.”

On the subject of snakes, elsewhere in “Cross Creek”, Marjorie wrote, “My determination to use common sense might have been my undoing. One late winter day in my first year I discovered under the palm tree by the gate a small pile of Amaryllis bulbs. The yard was desperate for flowers and greenery and I began separating the bulbs to set out for spring blooming. I dug with my fingers under the pile and brought out in my hand not a snake,
surely, but a ten-inch long piece of Chinese lacquer. The slim inert reptile was an exquisite series of shining bands of yellow and black and vermilion, with a tiny black nose. I thought, “Here is a snake, in my hands, and it is as beautiful as a necklace. This is the moment in which to forget all nonsense.” I let it slide back and forth through my fingers. Its texture was like satin. I played with it a long time, then killed it
reluctantly with a stick, not for fear or hate, but because I decided to cure the skin for an ornament on the handle of a riding crop. I salted the hide and tacked it to a sunny wall. I showed it proudly to my friend Ed Hopkins, who was teaching me the Florida flora and fauna.

He said, “God takes care of fools and children.”
The snake was the deadly coral snake. Its venom is of the cobra type, killing within a few minutes by a paralyzing of the nerves….” Mrs. Rawlings’ fear of snakes returned.
**
In 1931, Marjorie’s story “Jacob’s Ladder” was published in Scribner’s Magazine for which the author received $700.00—quite a lot of money at the height of the Great Depression! Since Marjorie had a great fear of snakes and a greater fear of encountering something worse in the outhouse after dark, the $700.00 paid for an indoor bathroom with a toilet ordered new from Sears Roebuck.

Elizabeth Silverthorne, author of “Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Sojourner at Cross Creek” writes that “part of her appeal to the natives [of Cross Creek] was her sincere interest in them and her frank eagerness to learn from them everything they could teach her, from how to prepare their natives dishes to how to hunt and fish…” Indeed, Marjorie became a good fisherman and a “pretty good hunter” according to her grove manager. A few years later, when her love of animals overcame her enjoyment of the sport, she still loved to go along with the huntsmen for the pleasure of the company and the enjoyment she got from being outdoors. In her own words, Marjorie said “There was great sport at first in all the hunting. Then it came to sicken me, and now I go to the pines as a guest and not an invader…”

And, as Marjorie came to understand the Cracker’s viewpoint, she also came to sympathize with it. In a number of her stories and novels, explains Silverthorne, “Crackers do things that are wrong according to the law but right according to their own code.”
In late summer of 1932, Marjorie went to live with a family in the big scrub country—she lived with them for over two months, helping with the chores, Washing heavy quilts by stomping them in wash tubs, helping to make lye soap and sleeping under a mosquito net, as the family did, with one sheet covered by a quilt. She scrubbed floors with corn shuck brushes and helped the family keep in squirrel meat. She did all of the illegal things the men of the scrub did, including stalking deer with a light at night, out of season.

Eventually, her first novel, “South Moon Under” was written. (“south moon under” was a native Floridian phrase, used by the people of the scrub, who were constantly conscious of the phases of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the wind. It was important for them to know that deer, fish, and other creatures stirred and fed ‘on the moon’ – at moon rise, at south-moon over, when the moon was at its zenith, at moon down and at south moon under—when the moon was directly under the earth). “South Moon Under” tells the story of a young man, Lant, who must support himself and his mother by making and selling moonshine, and what he must do when a traitorous cousin threatens to turn him in. Moonshiners were the subject of several of Marjorie’s stories and she lived with a moonshiner for several weeks, near Ocala, to prepare for writing the book.

“South Moon Under,” published in 1933, was chosen by the Book of the Month Club along with George Bernard Shaw’s “Adventures of a Black Girl in Search for God”. It was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Ms Silverthorne writes that one of Marjorie’s most admirable qualities was her complete freedom from professional jealousy…she often wrote letters to writers whose work she admired and frequently struck up lifelong friendships with them as a result. She became friends with John and Margaret Marsh (you may know her better as Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind”). Marjorie and Margaret discovered they had a lot in common.

One of my favorite stories about Marjorie is that of a meeting with Ernest Hemingway She was having lunch with friends at her husband Norton’s Castle Warden Hotel one day, and thought she recognized Hemingway across the room. She sent him a note that read, “If you are Ernest Hemingway, please come have a drink with us.”

He sent a note back, saying, “If you are Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, I’d be delighted”. (Marjorie had met Hemingway initially on a friend’s yacht).

After she read “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” she wrote a letter of praise to him and invited him and his family to visit Cross Creek to hunt. There are, actually, a wealth of stories about Marjorie and the well-known authors with whom she corresponded. She became friends not only with Hemingway and Margaret Mitchell, but also Thomas Wolfe, Robert Frost, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. She also wrote to writers such as A.J. Cronin and John Steinbeck, praising them for their work.

In 1935, while continuously writing short stories which were published in various popular magazines of the day, Marjorie’s book, “Golden Apples” was published. It was one of her least well received books and she herself was disappointed in it. In a 1935 letter to her publisher Max Perkins, she called it “Interesting trash instead of literature.”
But she found enormous success in 1938 with “The Yearling”. It was her most famous book, for which Marjorie is best known. It is considered a classic in children’s literature. Oddly enough, she and her editor had agreed that the book would be written for adults but in a spirit that would appeal to children.

The story was based on an actual family living in the Florida scrub, and a boy who made a pet out of a deer, and in the end was forced to kill it. “The Yearling” was an instant success and received rave reviews. Two weeks after its publication, it was on the list of best sellers, where it remained for 93 weeks. During the first two months, 60,000 copies were sold, and in just over a year, it went through 21 American printings, selling over 500,000 copies. (Letters were sent to Marjorie, in response to reader appreciation for “The Yearling”, even fifteen years after her death. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1939. (*My copy of “The Yearling” is from the Palmetto Edition which was offered at a special price of $1.30 only until Christmas, 1942.)

Following “The Yearling” in 1938, Scribner’s published her book “When the Whippoorwill” a collection of short stories, in 1940.

From the University of Miami, Treasuries of South Florida Library, comes this explanation of the title (which I had to do some searching to find):
The title, “When the Whippoorwill”, derives from another Florida country or Cracker expression, “When the first whippoorwill calls it is time for the corn to be in the ground.” This is a most appropriate title for a collection of stories about the lives of Florida Crackers. Readers are treated to this familiar Cracker terminology in the short story “Varmints.” The book also includes “A Crop of Beans;” “Benny and the Bird Dogs;” “Jacob’s Ladder;” “The Pardon;” “The Enemy;” “Gal Young Un;” “Alligators;” “A Plumb Clare Conscience;” “A Mother in Mannville;” and “Cocks Must Crow.” Many of the stories were first published in magazines, including “Varmints,” which appeared in the December, 1936, issue of Scribner’s. In “Varmints,” Rawlings offers a narrative tale of Quincey Dover’s troubles with “an unnatural mule belonging to two of her acquaintances.”

The typescript is accompanied by an autographed copy of the story’s first book printing in 1940. This copy is inscribed by Rawlings to her future husband Norton Baskin, and was a gift from him to the University of Florida Libraries.

Rawlings gave her manuscripts and correspondence to the University of Florida in 1950. This typescript typifies Rawlings’ writing process: she typed first drafts on cheap yellow second sheets, then revised generously, usually in pencil. As with the original manuscript of the Yearling, the paper used is pulpy and highly acidic. All the Rawlings’ manuscripts were, by the 1990s, too fragile for use, and could be consulted only by using the microfilm copies. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and other concerned individuals provided generous private support and the Libraries’ Preservation Department was able to purchase the supplies needed to treat and thereby conserve each page. Every sheet of manuscript paper has been deacidified, encapsulated in archival mylar, and bound in protective covers. Thus the originals may be examined by students and scholars without harm. The pages are kept in proper order, and are safe from the ravages of dirt, insects, dampness, and, insofar as possible, time.”

It would appear—judging from the prices I have encountered for pre-owned copies of “When the Whippoorwill”—that it was not as widely published as “The Yearling”. Some of the stories in “When the Whippoorwill” can be found in “Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings”, edited by Roger L. Tarr and published in 1994 by the University Press of Florida.

After the publication and huge success of “The Yearling” Marjorie’s publishers suggested a book about life in the Florida scrub. Marjorie’s thoughts were already running along the same lines; she didn’t have to fret over a title—the book named itself: “Cross Creek”. It was first published in 1942.

“Cross Creek was chosen for a Book of the Month selection, along with John Steinbeck’s “The Moon is Down”. Cross Creek received immediate critical acclaim with some reviewers calling her “a female Thoreau.”

“Cross Creek” rose to the top of the best seller lists and remained there for many months. The armed forces published a special edition of “Cross Creek” which led, in turn , to Marjorie being inundated with mail from servicemen…bearing in mind this was 1942 and the USA was deeply embroiled in World War II. Marjorie strived to answer all of their letters. I think the charm and quietness, the native humor and Marjorie’s love of the earth endeared her to the world during this difficult period in American history.
“Who owns Cross Creek?” Marjorie writes on the last page of the book. She answers her own question; “The red-birds, I think, more than I, for they will have their nests even in the face of delinquent mortgages. And after I am dead, who am childless, the human ownership of grove and field and hammock is hypothetical. But a long line of red-birds and whippoorwills and blue-jays and ground doves will descend from the present owners of nests in the orange trees, and their claim will be less subject to dispute than that of any human heirs Houses are individual and can be owned, like nests, and fought for. But what of the land? It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.” (I am inclined to think that it was with these words, this writing, that Marjorie must have decided she would leave the house and most of the property to the University of Florida).

“Cross Creek Cookery” grew out of the popularity of a chapter in “Cross Creek”, titled “Our Daily Bread” so when Marjorie suggested to her editors at Scribner’s that she compile a cookbook, they quickly agreed. Of her cooking, Marjorie wrote (in “Cross Creek”) “Cookery is my one vanity and I am a slave to any guest who praises my culinary art. This is my Achilles heel…” (I smiled, reading those lines; I could have written them myself). Because Cross Creek Cookery was a cook book, and I often review cookbooks, I will write a separate review of the book for you. “Cross Creek Cookery” was published by Scribner’s in 1942.

By the end of 1942, writes The Literary Traveler, “Both The Yearling and Cross Creek had been translated into 13 foreign languages and published in the armed forces edition. Shortly after Marjorie’s 50th birthday, the motion picture version of The Yearling starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman came out to critical acclaim.”

More than a decade would pass before Marjorie completed “The Sojourner”. She suffered from ill health (undoubtedly not helped by a heavy cigarette addiction—she smoked up to five packs a day of “Lucky Strikes”). She was in two automobile accidents and the slander lawsuit lasted five years. “The Sojourner” was published in 1953 to mixed reviews; that December, Marjorie died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Antioch Cemetery, a short distance from Cross Creek.

Her husband Baskin had written on her gravestone, “Through her writings, she endeared herself to the people of the world.”

In 1970, the Florida Parks Service began managing Marjorie’s home at Cross Creek. It needed a great deal of restoration. By 1980, there was just the house surrounded by a vast emptiness. Major restoration was completed in 1996, the year of MKR’s 100th birthday.

Marjorie had written, “I do not know how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.” These words bring tears to my eyes. I can relate. And I suppose this explains my love for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the books and short stories that she wrote. I feel in her a kindred spirit, even though she passed away when I was just a young girl myself—and had not yet discovered who SHE was.

Books by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
• South Moon Under, 1933
• Golden Apples, 1935
• The Yearling, 1938
• When the Whippoorwill, 1940
• Cross Creek, 1942
• Cross Creek Cookery, 1942
• The Sojourner, 1953
Published posthumously:
• The Secret River, 1955)
• The Marjorie Rawlings Reader, Edited by Julia Scribner Bigham 1956
• Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, edited by Roger Tarr,
1994
• Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Songs of a Housewife, edited by Roger Tarr, 1996

• Blood of My Blood, edited by Anne Blythe Meriwether, 2002

Books About Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Creek

• Frontier Eden: The Literary Career of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Gordon Bigelow, 1966
• The Selected Letters of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Edited by Gordon Bigelow and Laura V. Monti, 1983

• Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Sojourner at Cross Creek, Elizabeth Silverthorne, 1988
• Invasion of P
privacy: The Cross Creek Trial of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Patricia Nassif Acton, 1988
• Idella, Marjorie Rawlings’ “Perfect Maid”, Idella Parker, 1992
• The Creek, J.T. Glisson, 1993
• Cross Creek Kitchens, Sally Morrison and Kate Barnes, 1993
• Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers, Sandra Wallus Sammons and Nina McGuire, 1995
• Vegetable Gardening in Florida, James M. Stephens, 1999
• From Reddick to Cross Creek, Idella Parker, 1999
• Max & Marjorie (Letters Between Maxwell Perkins and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 1999
• The Private Marjorie (Letters from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to Norton S. Baskin), Edited by Rodger Tarr, 2004
• The Uncollected Writings of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Collection of juvenilia, college writing, newspaper pieces, and stories of life in Florida), Edited by Rodger L. Tarr and Brent E. Kinser, 2007

–Sandra Lee Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Sandra Lee Smith

A PEEK INTO THE PAST–ANTIQUARIAN COOKBOOKS

A PEEK INTO THE PAST….ANTIQUE COOKBOOKS
AN UPDATE IN 2016 (originally posted 5/29/11
Say “antiquarian cookbooks” and most people imagine that anything they consider old—cookbooks over 30 years old, for instance–to be “antiques”. Strictly speaking, a thirty year old cookbook isn’t an antique; however, many cookbooks published in fairly recent decades may be extremely valuable to a collector. If, for instance, you have a first edition copy of “Joy of Cooking” – the very first copies, the true first editions, were self published by the author in 1931, making one of those 80 years old. It has been in print continuously since 1936 with more than 18 million copies sold. In 1936, Bobs-Merrill began publishing “Joy”. A first edition of “Joy” was listed recently by ABE books for $3,000.00.

Many cookbook dealers call themselves antiquarian book dealers while most of the cookbooks they are offering for sale are not truly antiquarian…but may be merely out of print or scarce. And remember the #1 golden rule of cookbook collecting or trying to sell some of your books—a cookbook is only worth $3,000.00 (or even $100.00) if someone will PAY that price. As a collector you have to decide for yourself whether the asking price of a book is worth that much. (Heck, I would love to complete my collection of The Browns cookbooks but am missing their Vegetable cookbook—I have seen it listed by antiquarian dealers for $90.00 – and to MY mind, $90.00 is too steep. I think even $50.00 would be too much –Tag it at $25.00 and I would probably start writing a check. (After originally posting this article, someone from the Browns’ family found a copy of the Vegetable Cookbook and I was able to purchase it for $25.00!)

Personally, I think most dealer prices are too pricey; I find most of my treasures in thrift stores and other out-of-the-way places where the prices are often more reasonable. On the other hand, I HAVE paid rather high prices for cookbooks I have coveted too much not to own them. And in recent years, I have been doing a lot of my searching on Amazon.com.

So, you ask, what IS an antiquarian cookbook? To be truly an antique, it should be over one hundred years old.

We are fortunate that cookbooks, over the centuries, have enjoyed a high enough status to have been collected and preserved.

The earliest cookbooks were handwritten manuscripts, prior to the invention of the printing press in 1455. All books were handwritten manuscripts. The Gutenberg Bible, as we know, was the first book printed on the printing press, but cookbooks also played an important role in the development of printed books.

Per Esther Aresty in her 1964 “The Delectable Past” (Simon & Schuster), the first cookbook printed on the printing press originated in Italy. It was written by a Vatican librarian named Bartolomeo de’ Sacchi and was titled “DE HONESTA VOLUPTATE” which loosely translates to mean “Permissible Pleasures.”
England’s first printed cookbook, “The Boke of Cokery” (sic) was published in 1500; “The Good House-Wive Treasure” (sic) was printed in 1588; “The English House-wife” (sic) by Gervase Markham was printed in 1615, and along with other cookbooks being published during those periods of time, were all written by men – women were not thought to be competent enough to write cookbooks!
Also, these books were owned only by the wealthy or royalty—bearing in mind, it really was a man’s world; most women in medieval times did not have the luxury of an education.

From Betty Confidential I learned that the very first female cookbook writer is believed to be Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany. Her Kochbuch of 1553, however, remained in manuscript form until modern times.

Also from Betty Confidential, “Anna Weckerin’s Ein Köstlich new Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookbook) of 1598 is the first cookbook published by a woman. It went through many editions up through the 17th century. She was the wife of a prominent professor of medicine, Johann Jacob Wecker, and not surprisingly, was health conscious. Her recipes include a roast salmon with a sour sauce, an eel pie, as well as more familiar German dishes like Bratwurst and Lebkuchen.” Betty Confidential also refers to “One of the most delightful and least known of antique cookbooks is ‘Rare and Excellent Receipts’ by Mary Tillinghast published in 1690. (This is the first I have ever heard of Mary Tillinghast’s cookbook).

In my original article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1993, I noted that “Possibly the first English cookbook with a woman’s by-line appeared in London in 1681 and was titled “The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet” by Hannah Wooley. While searching on Google to re-verify my 1993 notes, I came across the earlier references to Sabina Welserin and Anna Weckerin.
Another of the earliest female cookbook authors was Mary Kettilby who, in 1714, published “A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery; For the Use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers and Careful Nurses.” But one woman writer who was to greatly influence English cookbooks and to prove that women were just as capable as men when it came to compiling cookbooks was Hannah Glasse, whose book “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” was published in 1747.

These early cookbooks were scarcely JUST cookbooks—they contained everything from household hints to directions for making up one’s own medicines, instructions for managing the household servants and proper etiquette, to directions for concocting perfumes, wines, cordials, soap, yeast – just about everything.

Early cookbooks began with the premise that first you had to KILL the animal that was to be eaten, and provide gory details for dismembering and preparing meat. I remember one old cookbook’s directions for cooking calf’s head—first you had to hold it by an ear and dip the head in boiling water! Still think it was so great back in the good old days? Calf’s head jelly was a forerunner of Jello gelatin—but Calf’s head was also cooked to make “mock turtle soup” – when you didn’t have a turtle but did have a calf’s head laying around. Ew, ew. Directions for killing a turtle to make authentic turtle soup are so gruesome that I, for one, am grateful for mock turtle soup. More recent versions of mock turtle soup are made with…ground beef.

Many seventeenth and eighteenth century cookbooks found their way across the ocean—ALL cookbooks first available in this country came from Europe. Not that it mattered very much; pioneer Americans were learning to adapt to a wide variety of new foods and one can suppose that even if the lady of the house COULD read and write, much of the discourse on managing servants would have been useless to early pioneer women.

The first American cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, and reprinted there in 1752. According to “The Delectable Past”, however, this book was American by imprint only for it was actually Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife” (sic) which, at the time, was the most popular cookbook in England. The same book was reprinted in New York in 1764. (There was a lot of plagiarism ‘back in the day’ and apparently, it was done with impunity.)
In 1772, a cookbook was published in Boston, Susannah Carter’s “The Frugal Housewife,” followed in 1792 by Richard Briggs’ cookbook “The New Art of Cookery”. However, these first “American” cookbooks were actually English cookbooks; none contained recipes using Native American foods. Cookbooks were not in great demand in this country. In the south (and in the homes of some of the well-to-do) hostesses kept manuscript recipe journals and guarded their treasured recipes carefully, while in pioneer households across the land, young girls learned to cook by watching and helping their mothers in the kitchen.

The first cookbook written by an American woman was Amelia Simmon’s “American Cookery” which appeared in print in 1796. Amelia, according to cooklore, was an orphan and is credited with also being the first American cookbook writer to use American recipes with American ingredients. Her book was enormously successful—so much so that many of her recipes turned up later in Susannah Carter’s book “The Frugal Housewife” which in turn was plagiarized later in a reprint edition of Hannah Glasse’s book for American readers! But as noted earlier, these aren’t the first instances of plagiarism—stealing other cookbook authors’ works was a common practice that goes back hundreds of years.

Even Alexander Dumas, famous for having written “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” was guilty of plagiarizing when he was compiling his “Le Grand Dictionaire de Cuisine”. This was such a common practice, one can only assume that in the absence of laws protecting writers, authors had no compunctions against lifting material from other writers’ works.
The publishing market was replete, throughout the 1800s, with cookbooks written by women (bearing in mind, it was one of the few things a respectable “lady” could pursue as a source of income).

One written by a man was “The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined: comprising ample directions for preparing every article requisite for furnishing the tables of the nobleman, gentleman and tradesman, by John Mollard. (Presumably, in Mr. Mollard’s world there were no women in the kitchen).

From the previously mentioned Susannah Carter, in 1803, was “The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts” (Has anyone ever wondered how those long titles ever fit on the cover of a book?)

Sometimes the author of a cookbook, if a woman, would write anonymously to preserve her dignity and reputation. “A New System of Domestic Cookery, published in 1807 “by a Lady” was later identified when the book was reprinted.
And, in 1808 Lucy Emerson is credited with “The New-England Cookery, Or The Art of Dressing All Kinds of Flesh, Fish, and Vegetables—etc etc” and if it sounds familiar, it’s because Lucy plagiarized the 1798 cookbook by Amelia Simmons.

I was curious about copyright laws and when they went into effect, so – digressing and sidetracking, which I am known to do, I Googled a number of websites. I learned this:

The world’s first copyright law was the Queen Anne Statute, or “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. It was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710.

The purpose of this was to protect work of authors, but copyright laws have now extended to all forms of media. The Queen Anne Statute was the origin of all modern copyright laws.

In the USA, the basis for both copyright and patent law is established in Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution (adopted 17 September 1787).

The first actual US copyright legislation was passed by the Congress on 25 May 1790 and signed into law by then President George Washington on 31 May 1790. While Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have birthed the idea of copyrights, it can be seen that it was present in the UK well before then.

Well, despite the existence of copyright laws, would-be authors went right on plagiarizing, or pirating, other authors’ works.

In 1815, Priscilla Homespun published “The Universal Receipt Book” (do you think that was really her surname?) and in 1819, The New Family Receipt Book was published by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, who published a number of other cookbooks in her time.

In 1820, Rundell published “The New Family Receipt Book” while (same year) Mrs. Frazer published “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, Preserving…”

There was in 1830, “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”—in 1832, reprint identified the Lady of Philadelphia as Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.

One of the first of these that I actually recognize and remember reading about elsewhere is “The Virginia Housewife, Or, Methodical cook”, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph….I could spend hours typing up all the references to cookbooks published in the 1800s, but you get the picture.

From Feeding America, we learn that “by 1860 more and more cookbooks were being printed, and American cookbooks had become an integral part of the publishing business. The upheaval of the Civil War caused a decline in the publication of all books, including cookbooks. Then, in the 1870s, three major cookbooks explosions occurred, the effects of which are still with us. The first was a Civil War legacy: cookbooks compiled by women’s charitable organizations to raise funds to aid victims of the War – orphans, widows, wounded, veterans. When the Civil War ended, these organizations turned their charitable attentions to other causes. The trickle of these early books published in the 1860s and 1870s has become a flood today, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charitable cookbooks to benefit every conceivable cause are published in the United States each year…(another) important development was the growth of the cooking school movement. It began with the cooking schools started in New York City by Pierre Blot and Juliet Corson and intensified with the great cooking schools and their teachers – Mrs. Rorer in Philadelphia and Mrs. Lincoln and Fannie Farmer in Boston. These schools dominated American cookbook publishing for the remainder of the nineteenth century and early into the twentieth”.

So, fast forward a little bit – to the latter 1800s, when along came Fannie – Fannie Farmer. Fannie was born in Medford, Massachusetts in March, 1857, the oldest of four daughters, born into a family that highly valued education and expected Fannie to go to college. However, when she was just sixteen years old, she suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to continue her education. For several years she couldn’t walk and remained at home with her parents. During this period of time. Fannie took up cooking, eventually turning her mother’s home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals they served. At the age of 30, Fannie – now walking with a limp – enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. Fannie trained at the school until 1889 learning what were then considered the most important elements of cooking, nutrition, diet for convalescents, cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. Fannie was one of the school’s top students. She was kept on as assistant to the director, and in 1891 took on the job of school principal. Fannie published her best-known work, “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book”, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.

“The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” was actually a follow-up to an earlier version called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book”, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884 under Fannie Farmer’s direction. Fannie Farmer’s cookbook eventually contained 1,849 recipes. Fannie also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning, and drying fruits and vegetables, and providing nutritional information. The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) didn’t expect good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later. (Yes, Virginia, a first edition of the 1896 cookbook would be worth some bucks especially since only 3000 copies were published).

Fannie Farmer’s book listed ingredients separately from directions, presented readers with accurate, level measurements. Earlier cookbooks would instruct the cook to “use butter the size of an egg”. (What size egg? Small? Medium? Jumbo?) or to “heat the oven until you can only hold your hand inside for 15 seconds, (or until you have a second degree burn?) or might call for “a teacup of flour” (what size teacup?).

Actually, Ms. Farmer wasn’t the FIRST to list ingredients separately from directions; Sarah Tyson Rorer had done that some years before, in her book “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook” (where Mrs. Rorer had a cooking school of HER own), but the concept of level, accurate, standardized measurements brought science into the kitchen.

Why are these old cookbooks so fascinating to read? Certainly they often lack usefulness in today’s kitchen; the recipes are generally vague about directions and quantities needed. However, they provide us with a stunning glimpse into the past, in an area (the kitchen) that most of us are familiar with. We see – perhaps better than most historians – just how time consuming and difficult a housewife’s role was a hundred or two hundred years ago. With the vast amount of work required in the kitchen, it’s a wonder that the lady of the house managed to accomplish so many other things as well. I have been reminded that families were often large and it was not uncommon for a maiden aunt or a grandmother or other extended family members to live in the house and thereby providing extra helping hands (confirming the axiom that many hands make light work).

Middle to upper class homes one hundred years ago might easily have had a maid or two, or a housekeeper or cook as well. I think we can safely assume that not ALL households had extra aunties or grandmothers, nor did all families have maids and cooks. Meals alone were a full time task that began at sunrise. If the lady of the house had a wood-burning stove, it meant laying the wood for the fire, keeping it hot, baking breads (which started with making one’s own yeast and sometimes getting the yeast starter going the night before) and then preparing meals for the entire family. Although wood stoves were commonly used, gas and oil stoves and ranges were available from the late 1800s. Miss Parloa, the author of a cookbook titled “Miss Parloa’s Every Day Cooking and Marketing Guide”, copyrighted in 1880 and published by Estes and Lauriat, judiciously expounds on the virtues of gas and oil stoves and ranges; she writes that the two products were so near perfection that it was difficult to imagine how they could be improved upon.

Miss Parloa deplored, however, the commonly used refrigerators of her time. She claimed that the food developed a peculiar odor due to the wood used in the construction of refrigerator’s interior and shelves. As most of us know, these “refrigerators” were actually “ice boxes” which contained blocks of ice (which you purchased from an ice man). The food was stored, literally, on ice. A few years later, a “better” ice box came along. The ice was stored in a separate compartment with vents on either side to allow air n either side to flow freely through the upper compartment, where the food was kept. What would Miss Parloa think if she could see our modern refrigerator/freezers with automatic ice cube and cold water dispensers on the doors?

Another of Maria Parloa’s cookbooks was “The Original Appledore Cook Book/Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking” published in 1872 and reprinted in 1881. My copy is in a truly battered, tattered, condition with the binding falling away from the contents, but what is intriguing are the last dozen pages or so, all covered with handwritten recipes that are so faded, it’s almost impossible to decipher the script. (When I began collecting cookbooks, I’d buy anything in any condition—just to have the books.)

And then there were the Beechers. Father Lyman was a Presbyterian minister. Daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, published in 1852.

“Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book: Designed as a Supplement to her Treatise on Domestic economy” was published in 1850 by Harriet’s sister, Catharine Esther Beecher. But there is an intriguing story behind the Domestic Receipt book—as told in Cookbooks-A-La-Carte:

“Catharine Beecher invited to tea one afternoon in 1846—twenty years after their graduation from the Hartford Female Seminary—two dozen of her former students. They listened with interest and sympathy as she described how the year before, promising to write a new cookbook, she had taken an advance from Harper & Brothers to send her gravely ill younger sister Harriet to the Brattleboro Spa in Vermont and of how, now, with only the first of over twenty projected chapters written, the deadline was fast approaching—which, if not met, would result in a severe financial penalty.

There was a solution . . . if each of those present would write a chapter, with a sufficient number of receipts—recipes—for the projected book, the whole book could be completed in a week! Never doubting their wholehearted support, she had the titles for the chapters ready on little slips of paper in her hand–meat, fish, vegetables, soups, pies, bread, breakfast and tea cakes, cakes, preserves and jellies, pickles, food for the sick . . .

The completed assignments were quickly assembled into Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, which soon became one of the nineteenth century’s most successful cook-books. Far ahead of its time, it warned about the dangers of animal fats and excessive sugar. Today there is, perhaps, no more detailed picture of what Americans were eating a hundred and fifty years ago and how it was cooked. In helping organize the kitchen and its work properly, Miss Beecher intended to enable women to lead longer, happier lives…”

In 1874 there was Marian Harland’s “Common Sense in the Household: a Manual of Practical Housewifery.” My copy is literally falling apart and is one of the oldest cookbooks in my collection. Marion Harland’s life was so interesting, it would be worth a post just about her. After writing 15 novels, starting at the age of 16, Marion wrote her first cookbook, “Common Sense in the Household” and continued writing many more books before her death at age 91.

There was also “English Bread-Book for Domestic Us, Adapted to Families of Every Grade” by Eliza Acton in 1857 and in 1877, “Buckeye Cookery, and Practical Housekeeping: Compiled from Original Recipes” – which has been reproduced in a facsimile edition.

Buckeye Cookery was the great mid-American cookbook of its day. It began life as a charity cookbook when, in 1876, the women of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio, published a cookbook to raise money to build a parsonage. They named it The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book, in honor of America’s Centennial.

The author, Estelle Woods Wilcox, who grew up in Marysville had moved with her husband to Minneapolis, where he managed the Minneapolis Daily Tribune. From Minneapolis, Mrs. Wilcox edited the contributions of the Marysville women and wrote the introductory essays to each section. The book was published in Minneapolis and the ladies of Marysville accomplished their goal by raising two thousand dollars for the parsonage.

Throughout the last years of the century, cookbooks continued to be published—more of Miss Parloa’s, some of Marion Harland’s, the White House cookbook by F. L. Gillette which led to numerous reprints over several decades (and is worthy of a post all its own), right up to 1899’s Catering For Two; Comfort and Economy for Small Households by Alice James, and Marion Harland’s “Bits of common Sense Series”.

And then there were all the cookbooks published in the 1900s….but, as you know, except for those published between 1900 and 1911, the rest don’t qualify as antiquarian cookbooks. However, that being said – there were cookbooks like the Settlement Cook book, Sarah Rorer’s New Cookbook, a Manual of Housekeeping published in 1902, Fannie Farmer’s “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent” published in 1904, Maria’s Parloa’s “Canned Fruit, Preserves, and Jellies: Household Methods of Preparation” also published in 1904, The Blue Grass Cookbook, by Minerva Fox, was also published in 1904, as was German National Cookery for American Kitchens, by Henriette Davids. The Times Cookbook by California Women was the result of a series of recipe contests in the Los Angeles Times and published by the Los Angeles Times in 1905, while the Good Housekeeping Family Cookbook was published in 1906- and the list goes on and on.

Collecting cookbooks is such a fascinating hobby—and it can be a valuable one, too. I bought a #1 Pillsbury Bake Off book at a flea market in Palm Springs one year, for $1.00. I almost didn’t buy it—the box of booklets on a table had a sign “books, 50c each” but when I held it up to the vendor, she said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. Grumbling, I paid her a dollar. It wasn’t until we were back in the car that I realized what I had—I had never before seen a picture of the first bake off book. They’re scarce and worth about $50.00 give or take a little depending on condition.

It’s an addictive kind of hobby as other collectors will testify. A few months ago, I began writing the current price of some of my old cookbooks on post-its to stick on the flyleaf, when I came across some of the going prices. The idea was for my family to have some kind of idea what some of the books are worth.

Did you know that Laura Bush collects vintage cookbooks? So do many top chefs including the Food Network’s Cat Cora. Booksellers throughout the country say that vintage cookbooks are in constant demand. A first edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons may be worth as much as ten thousand dollars—but I don’t think it’s the value of a book that attracts a true collector, as much as just HAVING a particular book. My having the #1 bake off booklet makes my collection of the Bake Off books complete even though they’re nowhere near being vintage cookbooks. Neither is the Vincent Price cookbook (which I do have)–one in good condition can be worth up to $200.00.

(Cookbooks written by the rich and famous is another whole ball of wax. I have several shelves-full of these books, dating back about 50 years. One of these days I will write about those).

Collecting cookbooks can pretty much take over your life, if you let it. (We have wall to wall bookshelves filled with cookbooks, inside the house. Bob had to convert half of our garage into a library to house all of our other books).

And when you aren’t reading antiquarian cookbooks, you can do as I do—WRITE about them!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!
Sandy

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

WHERE ARE YOU NOW, RUTH REICHL?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith

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

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

JAMES VILLAS’ CRAZY FOR CASSEROLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Villas is also the author of the following:

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

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

— Sandra Lee Smith

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

Originally posted 1/2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I found the following titles while doing several searches:

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

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

BUNNY’S JOY
Originally posted 5/3/13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith

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
**

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