This was originally posted on my blog in 2011; I have done some updating.
Sometimes, I think, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the cookbooks there ARE—not just hundreds or thousands but surely millions. I was out in the garage library trying to find a Mary Martensen cookbook that I would swear I have, but can’t find it– and last week it was some of my Helen Evans Brown cookbooks that were missing. Eventually, Helen’s books turned up but not Mary’s. But, while I was looking, I thought it prudent to dust the shelves while I was at it. And in the process, I found myself setting aside cookbooks that I thought deserved a second look. So, I brought inside an armful of old club and church cookbooks when I finished dusting.
Now, I know there are far more cookbooks than I could ever dream of collecting – just start reading some cookbook bibliographies and you will discover a lot of titles you haven’t heard of. Maybe it’s one of the things that makes cookbook bibliographies so enchanting – just reading the titles makes a person want to try and find more books. To paraphrase the Duchess of Windsor (no, not Fergie – I’m referring to Wallace Simpson who managed to get the king of England to abdicate the throne) (and I have her cookbook) – you can’t be too rich or too thin or have too many cookbooks.
Well, apparently my friend Betsy, who lives in Michigan, finally decided she DID have too many cookbooks and would rather collect bears, so she has been sending me boxes full of cookbooks from her collection. Betsy had a head-start on collecting cookbooks – she was already collecting when we first became acquainted in 1965 – but what is truly amazing and maybe hard to believe is how many books she sends that I don’t already have. How can that be possible?
Well, one explanation is that there are MANY DIFFERENT kinds of cookbooks. You could specialize in Junior League cookbooks, or try to collect church or club cookbooks from all fifty states (been there, done that)—you might develop an interest in Scottish or German or Hungarian cookbooks, if your ancestors came from one of those countries (or some other one).
If you have very limited space, you could collect SMALL cookbooks – I mean small as in the dimensions of the books. I have 4 shelves of “small” cookbooks and some of them are real treasures. Or you could specialize in southern cookbooks. Over the years, I have collected far and wide but have a tender place in my heart for any club & church cookbooks published in my home town of Cincinnati. But then I began expanding and wanted club and church cook books for all the neighboring cities and towns in and around Cincinnati. Ok, then I collected anything from OHIO, KENTUCKY, and INDIANA. But I lived for three years in Florida so I began collecting community cookbooks from THAT state.
But I LIVE in California so I REALLY focus on community cookbooks from all over the state of California. And I like old cookbooks from Alaska because they are so interesting—even if I am not likely to ever make anything featured in some of those cookbooks. (such as jellied moose nose).
Years ago, I began collecting celebrity cookbooks- now there are so many of them but in 1965 not quite so many and some of the older ones could still be found in used book stores in the San Fernando Valley. Well, you get the picture. It goes on and on. I discovered White House cookbooks and so began collecting those, because I collect anything I can find about the White House. And of course, if you collect White House cookbooks, how can you not collect the Congressional Club cookbooks?
I became interested in any cookbooks with “America” in the title after acquiring the Browns cookbook “America Cooks” and now could collect JUST cookbooks with America in the title. (I recently posted an article on my blog about all the cookbooks on my bookshelves that have “America” in the title.
Then I became interested in anything related to World War II on the home front – and rationing…so I started collecting books on this topic (admittedly, it’s not a very big collection). And more recently I began branching out on cookbook authors—I’ve never really collected the published works of cookbook authors although I now have all of the Browns books (Cora, Rose & Bob Brown) – I was just missing their Vegetable cookbook and mentioned this in a previous blog post—well, imagine my surprise – one of the Browns’ descendants located the Vegetable Cookbook and I was able to purchase it for a reasonable price.
The Browns remain my favorite cookbook reading to this day- and whenever I stop to think about Cora, Rose and Bob—I think they could have written a lot more cookbooks if they could have lived long enough to do it.
There’s another thing about collecting cookbooks – if you really want, say, the Number One Bake Off book and someone offers it to you for $50 and you are willing to pay that much, then go for it. But I would start thinking how many cookbooks I could buy from an Edward R. Hamilton cookbook catalog and you can see which way my mind would work. (FYI – I found the #1 bake off cookbook at a flea market when my sister Becky and I were visiting her daughter in Palm Springs)—I almost didn’t buy it because the woman selling a display of cookbooklets for fifty cents each—raised the price of this one bake off book and decided she wanted $1.00 for it—I thought twice (didn’t suspect for a moment that I was holding the elusive and extremely hard to find #1 in my hot little hands) but I gave the woman a dollar and didn’t discover my find until we were back in my niece’s car heading back to her house.
Those Bake Off cookbooklets were, I think, a lot more interesting to read back in the early days of the Bake Off contests.
Getting back to authors – I began searching for those by Ida Bailey Allen over a decade ago, purely for personal reasons—my mother had one cookbook in our kitchen when I was growing up, & it was an Ida Bailey Allen Service cookbook. I learned to cook using that cookbook. Then I became interested in Ms. Allen who, at one time, was quite famous and had her own radio program. So, I wrote about Ida Bailey Allen for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange years ago and began searching for more of her books. THEN I became curious about a cookbook author named Myra Waldo who wrote MANY cookbooks and is practically unknown today. So I wrote about Myra–And began collecting HER cookbooks. Since then, whenever I have become curious about a cookbook author who isn’t very well known today…I start looking for his or her books. Much of the joy is in the searching—and the delight of finding.
For many years, the searching was all done in used bookstores, wherever I went. Now – thanks to the Internet, I have many of the bookstores throughout the country at my fingertips.
But for now, let me tell you about a few—perhaps unknown except in their own towns—church and club cookbooks that came to my attention the other day:
175 YEARS OF COOKING by the Versailles Presbyterian Church, dated by Pastor DeYoung in 1988; the congregation was celebrating being 175 years old – by my math, the church should be 198 years old.
The Versailles Presbyterian Church was established…on September 14, 1813. I had to do a little Googling to find the Versailles Presbyterian Church in Versaille, Kentucky. I thought it sounded familiar so I did a little more searching – it is only 100 miles from my hometown of Cincinnati. Quite possibly I bought this cookbook on one of my cookbook searches in Ohio. This recipe for Cheese Crispies sounds like one I made for some of our big parties back in the day:
2 sticks oleo (aka margarine) you can use Imperial stick margarine – or butter)
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Melt butter, pour over cheese and mix in other ingredients. Roll in small balls. Flatten on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes.
SELECT RECIPES 1958 is also spiral-bound (all of these cookbooks are) and was compiled by Hazel Black, food editor of the Sanilac Jeffersonian, Croswell Michigan. I googled again to determine that the Sanilac Jeffersonian was celebrating its 161st year in 2017 so here is another source that has been around a good while. The recipes were from the files of the Jeffersonian and members & friends of the First Presbyterian Church, in Croswell Michigan.
From Select Recipes 1958, I chose City Chicken to share with you – mainly because City Chicken was a recipe we grew up on and I have seldom seen a recipe for it that sounds like my mother’s – except for the cream of mushroom soup. That is one addition we didn’t have in our house in 1958. But you might want to try City Chicken (which doesn’t contain any chicken).
1 lb veal cutlet (you could use a chicken cutlet)
1 pound pork (not ground)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp onion juice
¾ cup bread crumbs
2 TBSP fat
1 medium can cream of mushroom soup
Scald and wipe wooden skewers. Cut meat into 1 inch squares. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and onion juice Insert skewers in centers of pieces of meat, alternating veal and pork (or chicken and pork), using 5 or 6 pieces on each skewer. With fingers mold the meat into drumstick shape, then dip in beaten egg and then in crumbs. Brown carefully in hot fat & place in casserole or baking dish. Add soup, cover and bake in a moderate 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.
Sandy’s Cooknote: Well, in 2017, you may very well ask why bother to go to all that trouble when you can BUY a package of chicken drumsticks, often cheaply and for less than the cost of veal. But I think veal was really inexpensive back in the day and chicken not so. I remember loving City Chicken – and my mother probably did make it with veal and pork in the 1940s and 1950s.
VINTAGE RECIPES was compiled by the East Van Buren Senior in Lawton, Michigan, and was published by Morris Press in 2000. The seniors put together a lot of great recipes but the one I chose to share is Marinated Carrots, because my girlfriend Mary Jaynne gave this recipe to me a long time ago. What’s GREAT about the recipe is that the Marinated Carrots will keep for months in the frig (if you don’t eat them all up the first time you try them) but it also makes a big batch. It’s one of those things you can keep on hand in case you get unexpected company.
2 LBS carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 medium size onions, thinly slices
Cook carrots 8 minutes, then mix with green pepper and onion. Pour marinade over vegetables and refrigerate overnight before serving.
1 can tomato soup (undiluted)
½ cup salad oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp prepared mustard
Dash of salt
Mix tomato soup, salad oil, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce mustard & salt. Blend well. Mix with vegetables & keep refrigerated.
THE BEST FROM THE BLADE COOKBOOKS edited by Food Editor Mary Alice Powell is a compilation of selected recipes taken from editions of the Blade’s annual cookbook. The Blade Newspaper was first published December 19, 1835, so here again we have a noteworthy newspaper boasting of a lengthy history.
David Ross Locke gained national fame for the paper during the Civil War era by writing under the pen name Petroleum V. Nasby. Writing under the pen name, Locke wrote satires ranging on topics from slavery to the Civil War to temperance. President Abraham Lincoln was fond of the Nasby satires and sometimes quoted them. In 1867 Locke bought The Blade.
The Toledo Blade was named for the famed swordsmithing industry of the original city of Toledo, Spain. The cookbook was published in 1960.
In its introduction, Mary Alice Powell, the Blade Food Writer explains “The best from the Blade Cookbooks” is a printed example of women’s age-old hobby of sharing food preparation ideas with friends, neighbors and relatives. This cookbook represents an exchange of recipes among homemakers in northwestern Ohio and southern Michigan. It is a compilation of the recipes they submitted in 11 Blade Cookbook Contests, from 1950 to 1960.
The following hors d’oeuvre recipe won first prize in 1952—and one can of crab meat makes a lot of appetizers.
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
½ cup milk
1 6½ can crab meat
1 tsp salt
1/16 tsp pepper
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup finely chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
Finely crushed bread crumbs
Melt butter; add flour; blend. Add milk and cook until mixture thickens; stir constantly. Dice crab meat; remove hard fiber. Add spices, Worcestershire sauce, parsley to cream sauce. Sprinkle shallow pan lightly with bread crumbs. Spread mixture in pan; chill one hour. Mold into small balls. Roll I bread crumbs, then in egg and again in crumbs. Fry in hot deep fat at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve on toothpicks. Makes 30.
TOWN CRIER RECIPE BOOK subtitled “300 LUCKY LOW COST PRIZE WINNING RECIPES” was priced in 1938 at fifty cents, which seems a little steep to me at a time when so many food companies were offering free recipe booklets—I know because that’s how I got started. If I had ten cents, I’d get ten penny postcards at the post office and send for the free recipe booklets and pamphlets I’d find advertised on the backs of boxes, such as baking soda or Hershey’s cocoa, or in magazine ads. (My parents must have thought they had a strange ten-year-old daughter. When I was in the third grade I sent my first story to My Weekly Reader and received my first rejection slip).
The Town Crier was a flour produced by the Midland Flour Milling Company in Kansas City, Mo. Inside we learn “The 300 recipes contained in this book won individual prizes in a baking contest conducted in 27 newspapers. (we don’t know how much the contest winners won..but in 1938, anything had to be a gift while the Great Depression was going on).
Everyone likes muffins, so here is a recipe from the Town Crier for Sugary Apple Muffins:
2 ¼ cups flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
4 TBSP shortening
½ cup plus 2 TBSP sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped apples
Reserve ¼ tsp cinnamon and nutmeg and 2 TBSP of the sugar for topping. Sift dry ingredients together. Cream shortening and ½ cup sugar. Add well beaten egg. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Fold in apples. Fill muffin pan ¾ full. Sprinkle with reserve sugar and spice mixture. Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) about 20 minutes. **
It was my intention to tell you about the rest of the cookbooks I brought in from the garage library with me today, but this post is already rather long, so I will close for now and urge you to look for your own armload of cookbooks—and to quote dozens of newcomers to cookbook collecting, read them like other people read novels.