One afternoon recently, I began going through some of the bookshelves in the garage library, and realized that some of the very old books I had stored out there were getting – not just dusty – but some kind of dust mites are attacking the bindings and covers.

So, I am in the process of re-packing some of these books and as I went along, I couldn’t resist looking inside some of these cookbooks. One thing that enchants me is the lengthy titles some of these books have. The cover of THE EVERY DAY COOKBOOK/Illustrated is proclaimed on the inside EVERY-DAY COOK-BOOK and ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PRACTICAL RECIPES by Miss E. Neil and in smaller print below the author is the following “Economical, Reliable and Excellent” and below THAT Chicago, Ill REGAN PRINTING HOUSE, 1892.

The collection of recipes are mostly short and to the point. I am bemused by one for Rich Bride Cake—is the cake rich or is the bride who is rich? Another for White Lady Cake has me wondering—is this a “White Lady” or a cake that is white or … you get my point. There are recipes under Miscellaneous for “an excellent hard soap” include directions for washing woolens, lamp wicks, a cement for stoves (in case your stove is cracked) and directions “ TO MAKE OLD CRAPE LOOK NEARLY EQUAL TO NEW which I couldn’t begin to explain. Does she mean “Crepe” as in a fabric? Someone who sews and is familiar with different kinds of fabrics might know the answer to this. Or does it have to do with the economy in 1892, requiring the lady of the house to make it look nearly equal to new?

Miscellaneous covers such topics as removing ink from carpets, how to make hens lay in winter, moths in carpets, making your own furniture polish, papering whitewashed walls (I can remember my grandmother brushing whitewash onto the lower parts of her fruit trees), renewing old kid gloves, and a wide range of other how to in the medical department—including (I couldn’t resist) a Quinine Cure for Drunkenness.

Another cookbook titled “GOOD COOKING Made Easy and Economical” that is literally falling apart opens to the Inscription “From Mother to Loyal, April 25th 1944 West Best Wishes on 40th Birthday” and might have been directed towards economic restrictions imposed during WW2. Good Cooking was compiled by Marjorie Heseltine and Ula M. Dow, in which the co-authors explain the purpose of this second edition and direct the homemaker to the addition of home-canned foods, preserves and jellies and pickles. The USA was in the third year of a World War in 1944, with no end yet in sight. And virtually ecvery thing was rationed, including sugar. (I remember my mother, aunts and grandmother canning apple sauce back in those wartime years, without the addition of sugar. The apples were sour apples, and so the applesauce was very tart. When the war was over—and we still had many quarts of unsweetened apple sauce in the cellar, my mother allowed us to put a small amount of sugar on our serving of applesauce. It is my most distinct memory of rationing in WW2.

My section on home canning is well-worn from use. Covering equipment and choosing a method for canning.. Maybe Mother gave GOOD COOKING to Loyal to become acquainted with home cooking – then again, the handwritten recipe for strawberry shortcake is in Mother’s handwriting and is dated May 30th, 1944. There is also a worn out page for Potato Fritters, also in Mother’s handwriting. I like to think that GOOD COOKING is so worn out from Loyal frequently using her mother’s birthday present.
Another cookbook with a lengthy title is A COLLECTION OF COPPER COUNTRY RE CIPES COMPILED BY THE FACULTY WOMEN’S CLUB of the MICHIGAN COLLEGE OF MINING AND TECHNOLOGY Houghton, Michigan, December, 1929. Printing on the cover is illegible—at some time in this cookbook’s past, it appears to have been covered with something that was pasted on.

However, that being said, Copper Country Recipes offers a surprising chapter on Foreign Menus and Recipes, in which I found recipes for Enchiladas and Tamales, Frijoles and Tortillas—recipes I would easily found in a Southern California cookbook—but in one from the Women’s Club of Michigan College of Mining and Technology? That was a surprise. Mind you, this was published in 1929!

Also in Foreign Recipes are Chinese recipes that together make up a Chinese Dinner (Chinese Noodle Soup, Chop Suey, Hundred Year Old Eggs in Spinach (which I have seen featured on the TV show “Chopped” but will pass on that one), Rice—Chinese Style— and Eight Precious Pudding. For a Chinese Luncheon you will find Egg Foo-Young, Chicken Chow-Mein, Fried Bean Sprouts and Chinese Almond Cakes. This is just a sampling of the recipes and menus to be found in the section Foreign Recipes.
Is this a cookbook you would be likely to find on or I’ll have to check!

Meantime, I want to share an 1897 cookbook, simply titled COOK BOOK on the cover but on an inside page is another lengthy title called THE PRACTICAL RECEIPT BOOK by Experienced House-Keepers published by THE YOUNG LADIES’ AID SOCIETY at the Methodist Episcopal Church, Sewickley, PA. and beneath that “Good cooking means economy and enjoyment, Bad cooking means waste of money, time and temper.” And under THAT is the date, 1897. On a blank page is the name, signed by Mrs. H.S. Jackson, 1897. The cookbook is in remarkably good condition, given that it is over one hundred years old.

Friends, I did a cursory check on for a couple of these titles—I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for – that being said—there are dozens of other titles to lure you in. I’ll try to provide you with some other titles for old cookbooks as I go through the ones I am packing into boxes.

I want to add that, if you are interested in collecting old cookbooks–I started out in 1965 with absolutely no knowledge of how many cookbooks might be “out there”. I started out with a letter to Women’s Circle magazine (no longer in print) – stating I wanted to start collecting old cookbooks and did anyone have any to sell or swap for. I received over 200 letters (no internet back then!) and I bought or traded for every cookbook offered to me. It took months for me to answer every single letter (and I was working full time, with two pre-schoolers going to a babysitter every day. I was beyond thrilled–and some of the women or men who wrote to me became lifelong friends, such as my penpal Betsy who remains a girlfriend to this day. And that is how my lure of cookbooks began.

–Sandy @ sandychatter


I probably would have never focused on the pioneer history of South Dakota if my oldest son didn’t move there with his wife, to be closer to his son. Visiting South Dakota—and even making a trip one Sunday for Mt Rushmore made me acutely aware of how little I knew about this branch of pioneer history. One of the books I found at a pioneer museum was

When I was writing in 2003, my focus at that time was on Pierre, south Dakota, where my oldest grandson resides. Having written about my travels to Pierre, South Dakota over the past few years, and discovering—firsthand–the importance and impact of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, I was thrilled to learn of a new cookbook on this subject. Everywhere you go throughout South Dakota, and especially in Pierre, the State Capitol, pioneer history is alive and this is especially evident with regard to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

“THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION” by Mary Gunderson was published 2003 by History Cooks Publishers
Author Mary Gunderson explains, “Much of my life, I have lived near a portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail in what is now South Dakota. My great-grandparents settled along the Missouri River sixty years after the Expedition passed this way. Several of the Expedition landmarks are among my geographic touchstones, including Spirit Mound, near present-day Vermillion, South Dakota, and Calumet Bluff, near Yankton, South Dakota. …” (The first thing I had to do was get out my map of South Dakota and look for Yankton and Spirit Mound. Both places are considerably south-east of Pierre, near Sioux City).

“I am,” Mary Gunderson tells us, “one of thousands of people for whom the Lewis and Clark Expedition is as much personal history as American history…”

When Mary first began to think about writing about the foods of the Lewis and Clark Expedition some not too distant years ago, she wondered if the food tasted good. She had to determine, she recalls, if it made sense to recreate Expedition foods for modern people and sensibilities. While Mary was reading the Lewis and Clark journals and letters, she discovered that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark wrote about food almost every day. “The more startling entries,” she writes, “eating several pounds of meat or dining on tainted meat”—are offset by the countless other details of gustatory satisfaction…”

Mary says, “A picture of daily life across early nineteenth-century North America begins to emerge, starting with the culinary pursuits of the Expedition’s originator, Thomas Jefferson, with the dynamic culinary climate in Philadelphia where Lewis made journey preparations, and through the food wisdom and practices of the people in each American Indian tribe who made contact with the Expedition….”

“We know,” Mary explains, “when the explorers ate the last of their butter and when they first tasted buffalo. Lewis delighted in Toussaint Charbonneau’s* boudin blanc.” (Toussaint Charbonneau was Sacagawea’s husband. Boudin Blanc was a mild sausage made of buffalo).

Mary continues, “John Ordway, one of the sergeants, praised the Mandan and Hidatsa women who prepared corn, beans, and squash for the visitors during the winter of 1804 to 1805. Both Lewis and Ordway recorded the day, 4 July 1805, when the Corps of Discovery drank their last whiskey rations. After the harrowing seventeen days spent crossing the Bitterroot Mountains, the command, near starvation, gratefully received hospitality from the Nez Perce, who offered food from their abundant stores of roots, berries, nuts, and fish. Sacagawea saved wheat flour and made a kind of biscuit for her son, Jean Baptiste, and shared some with William Clark during the winter at Fort Clatsop…”

Mary explains that, in seeking to understand the Lewis and Clark Expedition in terms of food, she “traveled across time and cultures…”

She combed the journals the travelers kept and relied on a wide range of research about the Expedition and its members, as well as information about everyday lives across the continent in the early 1800s. Mary says that her key written sources have been the words of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Thomas Jefferson and others, especially as found in “The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition…Besides dozens of other written sources, including cookbooks and recipes from the early 1800s…” Mary also talked with experts about such subjects as sausage making, grape varieties, basketry, corn parching, Latin names of plants and animals, and applied these facts and inquiries to what she calls “paleocuisineology” ®–“bringing,” she says, history alive through cooking—to make a history book with recipes….”

I was enormously excited when I first learned about “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION”, for the subject matter is one near and dear to my heart on several levels. I have been curious and interested in pioneer food most of my adult life. I really began to think about the enormity of the Lewis & Clark Expedition when I first visited Pierre, South Dakota, to visit my grandson, Nathanael, when he was four years old, and I’ve shared some of these experiences previously in the now-defunct Cookbook Collectors Exchange. I wrote “Kitchens West” for the CCE, also as part of a never-ending curiosity about American food history (in the 1999 issues of the CCE).
Didn’t we all learn, in history class, when we were children, of Thomas Jefferson’s 15-million dollar purchase of the “Louisiana Territory” from France? This was a real-estate deal that doubled the size of the nation. Jefferson then sent a crew, led by Lewis and Clark, on a historic journey to explore the new frontier. For the $15 million, Napoleon sold to us the Missouri River and all lands drained by it.

President Jefferson, a man of great vision, wanted, Mary Gunderson explains, “accurate maps and careful field notes to detail the landscape and all animals, plants, and natural formations.”

Lewis and Clark assembled their crew of nearly four dozen men and began a two year 8,000 mile trek which began on May 14, 1804, at the mouth of the Missouri River near St. Louis. The Expedition traveled by keelboat and two pirogues, (dugout canoes). Most importantly to us, two hundred years later, is that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were prolific journal-keepers. Prior to embarking on their epic Expedition, which one writer has likened to our traveling in space, today, Lewis met with a number of prominent men and began to obtain the provisions they would need. One of the largest single food provisions that Lewis purchased was portable soup, a kind of forerunner of today’s bouillon cubes, for which Mary Gunderson provides a recipe. She notes that Lewis also purchased “brass kettles, tin tumblers and metal spoons, as well as beads, especially China blues (to trade for food with tribal communities), cloth, writing materials, and equipment for hunting and fishing,” and she provides us with partial lists of the provisions.

When the provisions had been purchased, Lewis hired a horse and driver to carry the 3,500 pounds of supplies to Pittsburgh. During the summer of 1803, Lewis returned to Pittsburgh and watched while their keelboat was completed. Then he and the crew started down the Ohio River on August 31, 1803. In Louisville, Kentucky, Lewis stopped to pick up his partner, William Clark, and ten young men including Clark’s slave. The Expedition departed on October 26, 1803. They spent the winter on the eastern side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Most of the pioneer-related cookbooks I have acquired over the years are presented to us “as is” – by this, I mean, recipes (or receipts, as they were usually called) are published exactly as they were printed a hundred – or even two hundred – years ago. What interests me most about “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION” is that author Mary Gunderson has provided updated recipes that can be prepared in today’s kitchen. Her book is replete with many fascinating facts and sidebars about the Expedition and each of the recipes included in her book is accompanied by a bit of historical information. So, along with a recipe for Hoe Cakes is an explanation for its name. Included with a recipe for Grill-Roasted Turkey with Sausage Stuffing, we learn from Mary that, “Lewis first noted a turkey shot on 1 September 1803. The hunter brought in turkey again for Christmas. Plump domestic twenty-first century turkeys,” Mary notes, “do not resemble wild turkeys, either those of 1803 or of the present. Wild animals choose their own diet, unlike farm-raised animals that eat what they are offered…”

You will be pleasantly surprised with the recipes in “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION”—it is filled with mouth-watering, tempting recipes such as Chicken Fricassee and Pepperpot, (a kind of soup with African and Spanish origins), Hazelnut Cornmeal Pancakes, Fort Clatsop Salmon Chowder and Duck Breast with Dried Fruit Sauce. There is an early-American recipe for Scrapple, another for Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, White Catfish with Bacon, Cornish Hens with Sweet Potato Stuffing—and much more. You’ll also find unusual recipes for Deep-Fried Venison and directions for cooking a bear (one would expect it to start out with instructions to “first catch your bear”) as well as Braised Elk Brisket. There are numerous recipes (over ninety) in “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION” and a history lesson on every page.

Few cookbooks provide an Epilogue. Mary suggests, “Cookbooks rarely have conclusions, perhaps because a cookbook author accepts that a recipe is a fluid thing, subject to the whims and mood of the cook.”

However, she says, history books require a summation. “We know,” she writes, “the rest of the Lewis and Clark story. The Expedition forms an important piece of Thomas Jefferson’s Presidential legacy…..”

She notes that Meriwether Lewis adjusted poorly to a more settled life and died by his own hand on October 11, 1809.

Clark moved to St. Louis with his first wife, was twice widowed and saw three of his seven children grow to adulthood. Clark served as Chief Indian Agent and as Governor of the Missouri Territory and lived an active, full life. William Clark died September 1, 1838, in St. Louis.

Sacagawea sent her son Jean Baptiste to study in St. Louis under the wing of the Clark family. She is believed to have died in 1812 in what is now South Dakota.
Mary Gunderson is a nationally-noted food writer and culinary historian who wrote the first book about Expedition food, “COOKING ON THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION” as well as “Today’s Herbal Kitchen” with the Memphis Herb Society, “Pioneer Farm Cooking”, “Cowboy Cooking”, “Oregon Trail Cooking”, “Southern Plantation Cooking” and “American Indian Cooking Before 1500”.

Mary says, “I don’t remember a time I didn’t like to cook. In fifth grade, I started baking and eased my way into contributing to family meals. I started to read cookbooks in high school and organized an international food fair.”

Mary learned more about international foods as an exchange student in Chile, where she first tasted pesto and lasagna and many other native Italian-Chilean dishes. When it was time to go to college, she chose Iowa State because she wanted to study home economics with an emphasis on food and nutrition. During Mary’s freshman year she began writing for the Iowa State Daily. By the time she graduated in 1977 with a degree in Home economics, she knew she would be a food writer.

In 1982, she took a trip that changed her life. Not being married or having any children, with nothing to tie her down, Mary took a trip around the world, starting in Asia and coming back through Europe. That trip was, she says, “just the beginning of the rest of my life.”

Mary returned to the Midwest but was restless and wanted new challenges. She knew that being a food writer was not enough. She began to research food and culture. Then, one day, she got an idea. Drawing from her childhood, Mary began to research the Missouri River and discovered that not much had been written about it. An idea was born. Mary was approached by Capstone Publishing to produce a set of children’s books that combined history and cooking. She recalls that they wanted a book about the Revolutionary War but she convinced them that they needed to do Lewis and Clark. A book about food and the Missouri River was born. Mary wrote “COOKING ON THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION and five other books in the series, “Exploring History Through Simple Recipes” and discovered that this was what she always wanted to do, combining the two things she loved most – food and history. “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION” consequently, is the adult version of what started out as a children’s book.
I would be remiss not to mention that, for readers who are interested in bibliographies, there is a comprehensive bibliography and list of further reading at the end of “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION.” In addition, you will find a list of websites such as:

Mary lives today in Yankton, South Dakota, on the Missouri River, where her company, History cooks ® has its headquarters. The company published innovative culinary history books and offers presentations across the United States for many audiences, for radio and television, in regional and national publications and on the website

Mary Gunderson is a graduate of Iowa State University, where she majored in journalism with an emphasis in food and nutrition. She covered the food and culture beats as staff writer for the Minneapolis STAR and as a food editor for BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS. She has worked as a consultant for clients that include General Mils, Pillsbury, Land O’ Lakes, and Meredith Corp. Mary has also written for HOME, MIDWEST LIVING as well as other publications.
“THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION” which has been designated the official cookbook for the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial is a beautiful cookbook.

The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center at Gavins Point Dam provides a hands-on introduction to the Expedition. Exhibits cover the history of the Missouri, the tribes who lived along the river, and Lewis and Clark as trailblazers. The Center is located on the Nebraska side of Gavins Point Dam at Yankton. 2004 celebrated the Bicentennial year of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and would have been a wonderful time to visit many of these places.

I checked a few sources for obtaining a copy of “THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION”.

It is listed on, new and used, starting at $3.64

It is available on starting at $3.64, new & used.

If you are interested in the foodways of American pioneers, this is a good book to have in your collection; it is a valuable research tool for anyone wanting to learn more about our pioneer history. Type in Mary Gunderson on and you will be pleasantly surprised how many books you will find.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!



I posted this originally in 2011–I think I have a lot of new subscribers who might not be familiar with the blog post.

When we discovered we would have to move, in 2008, I was able to spend most of three months “dismantling” the house in which my significant other, Robert, (no relation to Uncle Bob) & I had lived for 19 years. When we moved into that house on my birthday in 1989, we had a great deal less than what we managed to accumulate in the nineteen years that followed. We had far fewer books, for one thing, and many less cookie jars. A friend helped Robert & my son, Kelly, and I move from a little bungalow in Van Nuys to the sprawling house in Arleta. We had so much space in that big old house, we didn’t think we’d ever fill it up. But fill it up we did.

Anything anyone didn’t want any longer—we happily accepted. My dining room table & chairs – once belonged to the mother of my friend, John. My kitchen table sat in the backyard of my friend Luther until we coaxed his landlady to let me have it. I have bookcases that had belonged to my former coworker, Mary Jo, and an old coffee table that I love was once my friend, Mary Jaynne’s. Mary Jaynne & her husband Steve also once owned the bar that is now in my family room.

Friends & family members knew we’d take any and all cast-offs, and the house on Arleta Avenue was truly a house of castoffs. You could go from room to room pointing out which pieces of furniture had once belonged to someone else. We filled the walls in almost all of the rooms with bookcases and filled the bookcases with books—mostly cookbooks. The only rooms without bookcases were the kitchen, pantry, laundry room and bathrooms. Bookcases even filled the hallway.

Well, moving from 3000 square feet (roughly) to 1500 square feet is a challenge. We’ve been in our new digs for almost three years and are still getting settled. And many things had to be sold or given away. The Lancaster and Burbank Friends of the Library have received boxes and boxes of books and the Boy Scouts of Palmdale received truck loads of things for their rummage sale.

I am telling you all of this because I want it understood that I know a little about dismantling a house—but Uncle Bob’s house was unquestionably a far greater challenge for my girl friend, on whose shoulders responsibility for the house fell, along with her husband, Steve sister Diane, and brother Ron.

Uncle Bob, who was formally known as Robert G. Mooney, didn’t have any children of his own. He did have a loving wife with whom he shared his life for 52 years and I’m told theirs was a true lifelong love story. Their niece, Mary Jaynne, – my best friend – used to spend summers at their house when she was a child, and because she was the closest relative to Uncle Bob, finding a new home for Uncle Bob – who could no longer live alone – fell on Mary Jaynne’s broad shoulders. She, her husband Steve, and sister, Diane, found an assisted living facility that met with Uncle Bob’s approval and bit by bit they got him settled in his new home.

I first learned about Uncle Bob years ago when MJ asked us to save all the little pull tabs on cans of aluminum soft drinks or beer. Uncle Bob was a member of Foresters and as a project, the group collected the pop tops and donated the money to Ronald McDonald’s House. They collected over 4, 000,000 tops and Uncle Bob counted every one of them.

We began saving all the pop tops and would give them to MJ once or twice a year. Mary Jaynne discovered, when they began cleaning out his garage, four more boxes about 14”x14” and about 12” tall, full of the can tops. She took them to the Ronald McDonald house in Bakersfield.

Then it became Mary Jaynne’s next responsibility to dismantle Uncle Bob’s house.

How does anyone even begin to dismantle a house in which the occupants lived for over fifty years? It was surely the most daunting task MJ ever took on. They had yard sales and sold things for next to nothing. Mary Jaynne tried to find homes with people like me for the things that had been Uncle Bob & Aunt Joey’s treasures, people who were sure to love and appreciate them. After a lengthy search she found Aunt Joey’s recipe box. Aunt Joey was Uncle Bob’s wife who died from Alzheimer’s in a nursing home when her loving husband could no longer take care of her.

I inherited Aunt Joey’s recipe box – and a handwritten recipe journal – along with some cookbooks and stacks of recipe clippings – and (be still my heart!) close to a dozen old, 50s style aprons that I have washed & ironed and hope to have posted on my blog. I also inherited a wonderful old 1950s deviled egg dish and some 50s tins; I am still working my way through the treasures that found their way to my door.

Aunt Joey had recipes – but, surprise, surprise! So did Uncle Bob! They both enjoyed cooking and I’m told that Aunt Joey was a wonderful cook. Uncle Bob lent a hand mostly with barbecuing but also for get-togethers with their church.

Uncle Bob was in the army from 1942 to 1945 and he was an army cook. I have in front of me several army cook manuals – the Technical Manual for the Army cook, dated April 24, 1942, a smaller manual dated July 1, 1942, a Baking Manual for the Army Cook dated October 5, 1943 and a Technical Manual for cutting up beef, dated July 1, 1943 (that could start with “take one cow”). I like the recipes for cookies – for oatmeal cookies you will need 5 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of lard, 5 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of oatmeal—oh yeah, a pound of raisins and six eggs. (I hope the army had industrial electric mixers to put this cookie dough together! I certainly hope that the army cooks didn’t have to mix everything by hand!)

Another item from Uncle Bob’s pantry is a tea caddy that is the size of a small child’s ball—but absolutely perfect for someone like myself, who makes various pickled fruits from time to time—pickled watermelon and Hot Hawaiian pineapple pickles, pickled cherries and sometimes pickled cantaloupe.

Along with the army manuals is a “Service Writing Tablet” with Robert G. Mooney printed neatly at the top of the cover. This appears to be a school writing tablet for prospective army cooks (I had no idea that the army cooks had special training—but it makes perfect sense). The pages are full of handwritten recipes and directions, written in pencil, and on the last page, in large red handwriting are the words “Very Good!” written, presumably, by the army class teacher.

Aunt Joey’s family was Italian and so her small cookbook collection leans towards Italian recipes. Italian food was also Uncle Bob’s favorite. And, Aunt Joey’s Italian mother lived with them for about ten years, back in the day, and she made Italian “gravy” every Sunday morning so they could have spaghetti and Italian gravy (I would call it a sauce) with whatever was on the menu for Sunday night dinner.

Also, Aunt Joey & Uncle Bob got married in 1943, when World War II was in full swing. Wheatless Wednesdays and Meatless Mondays were encouraged by the government as a way of everybody being able to “do their part” in some small way. (And if you were Catholic, there were meatless Fridays, as well.) Aunt Joey’s collection of recipes contains a number of meatless recipes, such as cashew loaf and cashew patties.

Here, then, are a few recipes from Aunt Joey’s recipe box, written in her own beautiful handwriting:

For fun, here is Aunt Joey’s recipe for Cashew Loaf (presumably cashews were a lot cheaper in 1942 than they are today):


Mix all together baked in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes:
½ onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 #2 can Chinese noodles
1 cup whole raw cashews
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ soup can water
½ cup American cheese (grated)
Optional: ½ can diced fried chicken


Combine, form balls & brown in oven:
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 cup bread crumbs
5-6 eggs
1 onion, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ tsp sage
½ tsp poultry seasoning
1 TBSP soy sauce
¾ cup grated cheese
While the meat balls are browning in the oven make a sauce of
1 small can tomato juice
1 can stewed tomatoes
½ cup chopped onion
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp salt
½ tsp parsley
½ cube butter (half of one stick. One stick of butter or margarine is 4 ounces. Half that would be 2 ounces)
Pour sauce over balls and heat in oven until hot & bubbly.

(*Sandy’s cooknote—if there is too much grease in the pan, I would drain off the excess before adding the sauce—also, there is no meat in these meatballs.)

From one of Aunt Joey’s cookbooks, titled “Favorite Italian Cookbook/from Northern to Southern Italy/500 Special Edition Recipe/sponsored by the Los Angeles District Council of the Italian Catholic Federation” (a title that is almost as long as those on very old cookbooks from the early 1900s) I came across a recipe titled “Spaghetti Gravy” and I really felt obligated to share it with everyone.

Here, then, is Spaghetti Gravy:

1 clove garlic
2 TBSP olive oil
¾ lb ground beef, veal or both
½ lb pork sausage
3 to 4 cans canned tomatoes
6 can tomato paste
¾ cup chicken broth
3 bay leaves
¼ c. dried basil
¼ c. dried thyme
1 TBSP salt (or salt to taste)
½ tsp pepper
2 chopped onions (optional)

Brown onion, garlic and meat in hot olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer at least 1 hour. Remove bay leaves and pour over spaghetti. (my mother never put onion in her spaghetti sauce—said it was too sweet.) If uou like a darker color add red wine to sauce (1/2 cup).

ITALIAN SWISS STEAK (Bistecca Alla Italiano Svizzero)

(I often wondered where I found my recipe for the Swiss Steak, that I began making in the very early days of married life. I think now is was most likely something my sister Becky learned to cook and served to her family. Her first husband, Sam, was Italian and this recipe is similar to what I began cooking in the early 1960s. My sons all loved Swiss Steak and it was made with an inexpensive cut of beef):

1 ½ lbs round steak, 1” thick.
3 TBSP flour
1 package spaghetti sauce mix (such as French’s)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water
½ cup red wine

Cut the steak into serving pieces. Mix flour with a tablespoon of spaghetti sauce mix. Coat steak on both sides with this mixture. In a large skillet, brown meat on both sides in hot oil; remove from pan. Separate onions into rings; add to skillet & cook until lightly browned. Return steak to pan with remaining spaghetti sauce mix, sugar, water & wine. Cover pan and simmer 2 hours or until meat is tender. Serves 4.

Sandy’s cooknote: I used to add some chopped bell pepper to my Swiss steak recipe. My sons all loved Swiss steak with a big
bowl of mashed potatoes to go with.

2 cups diced fried chicken (leftover fried chicken would be good for this or you could pick up a few pieces of fried chicken at the supermarket deli section).
2 cups diced celery
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup slivered toasted almonds
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ACCENT
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 or 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
Pour mixed ingredients in a greased casserole dish. Top with 1 cup crushed potato chips or chow mein noodles and ½ cup grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.

AUNT JOEY’S RICE VERDE preheat oven 350 degrees


3 cups cooked rice (This would be a good recipe to use up leftover rice)
¾ lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 TBSP chopped pimiento
¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
½ cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups sour cram
½ cup sliced olives
Bake in greased casserole at 350 degrees for ½ hour, uncovered.

AUNT OLIVE’S KENTUCKY CARROT CAKE* preheat oven 350 degrees

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated carrots
1 ½ cups oil**
½ cup walnut meats, chopped (You can substitute chopped pecans if you wish)
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs (let eggs come to room temperature)
1 8½ oz can crushed pineapple, drained—save the juice

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Bake in a greased & floured pan 8×13” at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.
Icing: Combine ¼ cup butter or oleo (margarine) ½ lb powdered sugar, small package of cream cheese, ½ tsp vanilla. Beat mixture until fluffy. Fold in 2 TBSP crushed pineapple. If desired sprinkle with finely chopped nuts to garnish.

(Sandy’s cooknote: Personally, I would double everything—it’s easier to measure, too. Use ½ cup or 1 stick of butter. Use a 1 lb box of powdered sugar and an 8 ounce package of cream cheese–and if you have the time, sift the powdered sugar – it will blend better. Leave out the crushed pineapple in the icing. Add a little of the pineapple juice to make the icing the proper consistency. Use the drained crushed pineapple in the cake recipe.)

*Aunt Olive was Uncle Bob’s Aunt.

**regarding the 1½ cups cooking oil that goes into most of the old carrot cake recipes, I discovered you can substitute ¾ cup applesauce for half of the oil.

Sometimes we wonder what became of things like a recipe box full of handwritten recipes and magazine clippings, or perhaps a particular cookbook that someone had kept for years, making notations from time to time on the margins of the pages. My friend Nancy tells me that sometimes these unsung treasures end up being swept up to give to a junkman so the house can be painted and vacuumed for the next occupants. Uncle Bob can rest assured; his and Aunt Joey’s recipe collection has fallen into the right hands and will be handled with care for many years to come.

Happy Cooking & Happy cookbook (or recipe box) collecting!



This is a rewrite of a previously posted article.

Back in the days when I was raising four sons literally on a shoestring, there was generally not enough money for ANYthing, much less the toys and games the boys would ask Santa to bring. My husband (now ex) was self employed most of those years and his income was unstable and sporadic. I had to make do with what we had in the pantry for meals when sales became non-existent. We had spaghetti so often that my youngest son no longer will eat it at all. I kept large tins filled with dried spaghetti, rice or pinto beans. No one ever went hungry but they all undoubtedly got tired of meatballs and spaghetti and corn bread and beans, made with pinto beans in my mother in law’s West Virginia style.

That was during the years I was a stay at home mom – from 1965, when I quit my job at Weber Aircraft to stay at home, until 1977, when I was offered a dream job by a dear friend. I love that job so much, I was employed by them until I retired the end of 2002. And the best part was, there was always money for groceries after that. The downside, of course, was not being at home all of the time—such as the time my youngest son ran his bicycle into a telephone pole and ended up in the emergency room. But could I have prevented that accident? Probably not. But it wouldn’t have taken as long to get to the hospital.

Well, aside from that – way back when I had only two young sons—and we had a lot of friends and families back in Ohio, I began baking cookies and making candies to give as gifts for Christmas. Gradually, I worked my way up into jellies and jams (at first putting them in baby food jars), then chutneys and preserves and all sorts of other good things to eat—baking pumpkin bread or making fruitcakes. This led to discovering all the great cookbooks devoted to the topic of gifts from your kitchen. One of my favorites—it still is—was a book titled WITH LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN BY Diana and Paul von Welanetz, published in 1976. Back when I didn’t have ten thousand cookbooks taking over the house, WITH LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN was a frequently thumbed through cookbook and I think this is where I learned that you can make your own sauces, mustards and marinades, pickles, herb blends and some unusual jellies, such as one made from champagne.

Others that I sometimes rely on are “WHAT SHOULD I BRING?” by Alison Boteler, published in 1992—this is a nice spiral bound cookbook with ideas for just about any occasion, not just Christmas—there are ideas for bridal and baby showers, greetings, goodbye and get well gifts, annual events and holiday housewarmers…and a lot more—plus plenty of tips for wrapping things – the latter is my downfall…but my daughter in law, Keara, has me spoiled; she does most of my gift wrapping. Another favorite of mine is GIFTS OF FOOD by Susan Costner, published in 1984. You will go crazy over the recipes—160 delectable recipes and how to wrap them.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I never noticed, before, how many of the titles in this category start out with “Gifts from –“ so let me give you a quick rundown on a few of them.


GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN, BY Carli Laklan and Frederick-Thomas, published 1955 by M Barrows & Co (a collection of 300 recipes)

GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN by Norma Myers and Joan Scobey, published in 1973 by Doubleday & Co. (over 200 coveted family recipes)

GIFTS FROM THE PANTRY BY Annette Grimsdale, copyright 1986, published by HP Books (this is one of those oversize as in long but narrow soft covered books. I have been making my pickled watermelon from this cookbook for many years—because it uses the GREEN part as well as white and pink) Lots of other good recipes as well.

GLORIOUS GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN by Lisa Yockelson, copyright 1984 – offers over 200 recipes.

GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN by Famous Brand Names, copyright 2003—lots of great illustrations—so you will know what it’s supposed to look like when you’re finished,

WOMAN’S DAY GIFTS FROM YOUR KITCHEN, copyright 1976—no photographs but a lot of favorite recipes.

GOURMET GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, BY Darcy Williamson, published in 1982

SEASONAL GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN, BY Emily Crumpacker, William Morrow & Companym 1983 (and oh, my! I bought this at the Book Loft in Columbus Ohio at the German Village…and the reason I know this? The sticker is still inside.
Also – THE GIFT-GIVERS COOKBOOK by Jane Green and Judith Choate, copyright 1971 and published by Simon & Schuster
And one more –

THE JOY OF GIVING HOMEMADE FOOD by Ann Seranne, copyright 1978 and published by David McKay Company. (If the name Ann Seranne sounds familiar – it should; she’s written many cookbooks. I’ll write something about Ann Seranne another time).

Well, this is just a sample of the gift-giving genre of cookbooks I have collected. Now that I have all of these out, I will have to thumb through them again and see what treasures I have forgotten.

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!


While digging through some of my cookbooks (never enough space!) I was planning to make a pot of chicken noodle soup and opened Louis P. DeGouy’s THE SOUP COOKBOOK. I wrote about De Gouy in 2011.

While leafing through The Soup Cookbook, I found the following poem about chowder that dates back to 1834! (Way back when not everybody learned how to read or write, recipes were sometimes put into poetic form to make it easier for the apprentice cook to remember the instructions). The poem for chowder goes like this:

To make a good chowder and have it quite nice
Dispense with sweet marjoram, parsley and spice;
Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone;
To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,
Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;
Some say you must turn it, some say you must not;
And when it is brown, take it out of the fat,
And add it again when you add this and that;
A layer of potatoes sliced quarter-inch thick,
Should be placed in the bottom to make it eat slick;
A layer of onions now over this place,
Then season with pepper, and salt and some mace.
Split open your crackers and give them a soak,
In eating you’ll find this the cream of the joke;
On top of all this, now comply with my wish
And put in large chunks all your pieces of fish;
Then put on the pieces of pork you have tried*.
In seasoning I pray you don’t spare the cayenne;
‘tis this makes it fit to be eaten by men.
After adding these things in their regular rotation,
You’ll have a dish fir for the best of the nation.”

DeGouy adds this following notation: “fish broth and milk are to be added.”

Sandy’s note: to “TRY some bacon or salt pork meant to fry it crisp”

Master Chef De Gouy has the gift of making cooking an adventure. Even the plainest dishes become exciting; and for those of bolder spirit, there are many roads opening to new and unexpected gustatory pleasures.
Some time ago—a few years at least—I began collecting DeGouy’s cookbooks, the most famous of which may be a thick cookbook titled THE GOLD COOK BOOK. While going through it, I stuck on post it notes to every page that contains some kind of rhymed recipe. (A number of De Gouy titles can be found at Dover Press publicatons).

In the dust jacket to The Gold Cook Book, I found the following “Mr. De Gouy began his career as chef under his famous father, who was then Esquire of Cuisine to the late Emperor Franz Josef of Austria. Later he studied under the renowned Escoffier. In time, his name became associated with some of the great culinary establishments in Europe and America. In France: Grand Hotel, Hotel Regina, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel de Paris and Monte Carlo. In England: Carlton Hotel, in Spain: Casino of San Sebastian. In America: the old Hotel Belmont and the old Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He served as Chef Steward aboard the J.P. Morgan yacht WILD DUCK when it made its cruise around the world.

Something else I discovered when writing about the now defunct Gourmet Magazine is that Louis De Gouy was the very first on-staff culinary chef for Gourmet.

(It boggles my mind that any chef could work at so many different places—and in different countries– in the course of a career). And although I haven’t yet found a connection between DeGouy and Szmathmary, I think it quite likely they may have been contemporaries and known each other or knew about one another.

LOUIS P. DE GOUY is the author of the following cookbooks:

THE GOLD COOK BOOK, published in 1947 and reprinted numerous times
THE SOUP BOOK/OVER 800 Recipes copyright 1949 by Mrs. Louis De Gouy, published by DOVER publications, NY

I’m quite sure the list is incomplete and it appears that many of the previously un=copyrighted cookbooks were copyrighted by Mr. De Gouy’s wife. Dover Publications are a soft-cover cookbook. **

The following is from my previous articles and Blog posts:

I first became curious about Chef Louis Szathmary when I was writing articles for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in the 1990s. At the time, there was not much I knew about him other than what appeared on dust jackets of his books. I started out initially with the idea of writing capsule biographies about some of the most prominent chefs.
Finding chefs to write about was no problem—there are so many, especially nowadays, when hundreds, if not thousands, of four-star restaurants throughout the USA all boasting of their own super-chefs, who in turn frequently write cookbooks. I must have several dozen chef-authored cookbooks on my bookshelves. Other famous chefs appear on television and cable cooking shows; many of them have become familiar household names and faces. Who isn’t familiar with Rachel Ray and Paula Dean, Bobbie Flay and dozens of other TV chefs?

Many of the old-time chefs and cooking teachers of the 1800s – women such as Fannie Farmer, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Lincoln and others have been written about in depth by other writers.

I wanted tell you about some other super-chefs, starting with one you may not know much about.

My favorite Chef is Louis Szathmary! (Pronounced ZATH-ma-ree). Szathmary had an incredibly fascinating life.

Louis Szathmary, described by one writer as “a heavyset man with a generous face and large bushy mustache “(a description that matches the face on the cover of “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”) was, surprisingly, a Hungarian who had a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest and a master’s degree in journalism. Szathmary was born in Hungary on June 2, 1919, reportedly on a freight train while his family fled invading Soviet troops. He learned to cook in the Hungarian army. After service in the Hungarian army during World War II, Szathmary spent time in a succession of German and Soviet prison camps and thereafter was a displaced person confined to the American occupation zone in Austria. He lived in Austria and other Western European countries before coming to the USA in 1951.

A few clues to Szathmary’s background appear in the preface to “AMERICA EATS”, by Nelson Algren. “AMERICA EATS” was published in 1992 as part of the Iowa Szathmary Arts Series. Szathmary, who knew Algren personally—and purchased the manuscript from him–wrote the introduction to “AMERICA EATS”. (Nelson Algren was a fiction writer
and the author of “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM” which won the first National Book Award. In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Algren also wrote two travel books. “AMERICA EATS” was his only cookbook).

What cookbook collector hasn’t heard of the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series? But, in case you haven’t, briefly, Louis Szathmary, in addition to being a chef and the owner of the famed Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for many years, was a cookbook collector. Actually, Szathmary didn’t just collect cookbooks—he amassed an enormous collection of rare cookbooks, scarce pamphlets and unique manuscripts spanning five centuries of culinary art. He had a collection of twelve thousand books devoted to what he called “Hungarology” – books about his native country – which were eventually donated to the University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library. Ten thousand books of Hungarian literature were donated to Indiana University while a small collection of composer Franz Liszt’s letters was given to Boston University.

Johnson & Wales University, the world’s largest school devoted to the food and service industry, was the recipient of over 200,000 assorted items, described as a treasure trove of historical artifacts, which filled sixteen trailer trucks used to make the transfer to the school. There were antique kitchen implements, cheese graters, meat grinders, nut crackers, raisin seeders, chocolate molds, books and even menus.
Included in the gift to Johnson & Wales was “a collection within the collection”, a presidential autograph archive that included documents dealing in one way or another with food, drink, or entertainment, written or signed by every American chief executive. In George Washington’s handwriting is a list of table china he inherited from a relative. A handwritten letter from Mary Todd Lincoln invites a friend from Baltimore to the White House for an evening of relaxation. In a penciled note to his wife, Julia, Ulysses S. Grant asks that two bottles of champagne be sent to the oval office for a reception with congressional leaders. (Szathmary referred to this collection “from George to George”, meaning from George Washington to George Bush). His gift to Johnson & Wales has been attracting thousands of visitors since opening to the public—I believe it! I would love to go to Rhode Island just to see the collection!

The autograph collection includes items written by other historic figures, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Charles Dickens, as well as a note from the fourth earl of Sandwich, inventor of the most frequently ordered food item in the world.

If all of this were not mind-boggling enough, in addition, Szathmary donated over 20,000 cookbooks to the University of Iowa Libraries, creating the Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts. Almost overnight, according to David Schoonover, the library’s rare book curator, the institution became a “major research center in the culinary arts”.
The University of Iowa Press, in conjunction with the University of Iowa Libraries, publishes reprints, new editions, and translations of important cookbooks from the collection of Chef Szathmary. It must have given Chef Szathmary great satisfaction to witness the birth of the Szathmary Culinary Arts Series. Each title presents an unusually interesting rarity from the collection he donated to the institution. One of these published books was “AMERICA EATS”, which I have in my own collection.

“In my native Hungary,” Szathmary wrote for “AMERICA EATS”, “I was raised in a bookish family. From my great-grandfather on my father’s side, my forebears were all book collectors, and when I had to leave just hours before the Soviet army arrived in the Transylvania city where I resided and worked in the fall of 1944, I had already inherited and amassed a sizable number of books, mainly on Hungarian literature and other Hungarian subjects…”

However, Szathmary arrived, in his own words, “virtually penniless” in New York in 1951, with only fourteen books in his small wooden trunk. He appeared to have been fond of telling the story of arriving on our shores with $1.10 in his pocket, one change of underwear, two pairs of socks, one Sunday suit – and fourteen books. (It is worth noting that the 14 books Szathmary treasured most were not donated to any of the universities. The books he carried with him to America included a Bible he received as a child, three books on Mozart and several volumes of Hungarian poetry).

Upon his arrival in America, Szathmary began to collect books. Writes Szathmary, “My first purchase was a book by Ludwig Bemelmans at the Marlboro outlet store at 42nd Street and Broadway, where in 1952 all the remainder books were sold for nineteen cents each.” Szathmary confessed that he worked two jobs in the beginning, one during the day and another at night—and spent all the money he made on books. Of his early days in America, Szathmary said that he would spend hours in the Salvation Army basement searching for books, which he purchased for as little as five cents each. He said, “I rummaged through books in bins, on tables outside the door, and amid the garbage the accumulates in the back of used bookshops. I found treasures—valuable items—because I had the time.” Later, as time and money improved, he often worked at one job during the day and another in the evening. On the seventh day, he recalled, “I spent all the money I made on books.” (A man after my own heart!)

He continued to collect books while at the same time, as his interest in culinary arts and food management grew, he began to collect books in these fields as well.

Szathmary and his wife Sadako Tanino, owned and operated The Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for 26 years. It grossed more than $1 million a year for much of the time he was in business—and this was a restaurant that served only five dinners a week, no lunch, no bar and no “early birds”.

Szathmary authored several cookbooks of his own, including “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOK BOOK” and “AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”. He was advisory editor for a series of 27 cookbooks, in 15 volumes, titled “COOKERY AMERICANA”, for which he also provided introductions. (I only have three of the volumes from the series at this time, “MIDWESTERN HOME COOKERY” and “MRS. PORTER’S NEW SOUTHERN COOKERY BOOK”, and “COOL, CHILL, AND FREEZE”. These are facsimile editions of earlier cookbooks. Szathmary seems to have been utterly dedicated to American cookery and cookbooks.
(Szathmary was a prolific writer, and in addition to cookbooks, also wrote poetry. Additionally, he wrote a food column for the Chicago Daily News, and then in the Sun-Times every week for twelve years! Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough to do, for after closing the restaurant, he continued to operate Szathmary Associates, a food system design and management consulting business, and he devoted a great deal of time to what he described as “the matter of the books”. He also continued to lecture and worked continuously on new projects.

What is particularly intriguing about Szathmary as a chef is, I think, his wide range of expertise. So many of the super chefs today focus on one type of cooking. Szathmary, who could have devoted himself to solely to Hungarian cuisine, seems to have adopted the American potpourri of cookery, which embraces many nationalities. He was famous for his Continental cuisine, in particular his Beef Wellington.
What you also may not know about Szathmary is that he developed the first frozen dinners for Stouffer Food Corp. He worked as product development manager for Armour Food, coming up with new foods and ways to prepare them. Szathmary also designed a kitchen for military field hospitals that could be dropped by parachute and assembled quickly in combat zones.

At The Bakery, Szathmary’s restaurant in Chicago, he dominated the dining room with his commanding presence. He’d walk around in rolled up sleeves, wearing an apron, often telling diners in his booming voice, what to order – or to ask them why something was left on a plate. His customers at The Bakery appear to have provided the inspiration for “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”. In the introduction, Szathmary said he gave recipes to ladies who visited his restaurant. Apparently, they often accused him of leaving something out!

Szathmary wrote, “When I tell the ladies that I am able to give them everything except my long years of experience, they still look suspicious. So once again I launch into my best explanation, an old record played over and over again, which goes something like this: If you go to a concert and listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing the MEPHISTO WALTZ of Franz Liszt, and if you go and see him backstage after the performance and ask him for the piano notes, and if through some miracle he gives them to you, and you take them home and sit down at your piano (untouched for years), open up the notes and play the Mephisto Waltz and your husband says ‘Darling, it doesn’t sound like Arthur Rubenstein—“ what do you tell him?

Probably this: Oh, what a selfish artist! He left out something from the notes, I’m sure. Because when I play it, it doesn’t sound like when he plays it.

Well, dear ladies,” concluded the great chef, “Do you really think Rubenstein left out some of the notes? Or do you think his talent had something to do with it—and his daily practice for years and years and years?

You see, my dear ladies, cooking is just like playing the piano—it needs talent, training and practice.”

Szathmary concluded, “The best-kept secret of the good chef is his long training and daily performance. It’s not enough to make a dish once and when it’s not up to standard, to declare, ‘the recipe is no good.’” A specialty of “The Chef’s New Secret Cookbook”—if you manage to obtain a copy—is that each recipe is followed by a “chef’s secret” – Szathmary, throughout his life, was enormously generous – sharing his recipes, his collections, everything in his life. It saddens me that I never met him—but curiously, I sometimes feel, as I am typing, that he is looking over my shoulder and nodding his approval.

Szathmary spearheaded culinary education in Chicago by fostering work study programs with restaurants at vocational and high schools. Students and dining enthusiasts were invited to use the library on the second floor of The Bakery. He shared a passion for travel by assisting first time travelers with their plans to visit Europe and Asia.

Szathmary chose, on his own, to donate the bulk of his collections to various universities and institutions. Aside from Szathmary’s incredible generosity, what a wise move to make! Can you think of any better way to make sure the things you love most will be treasured by future generations, people who are certain to love your books as much as you do?

Szathmary explained that he had always bought books for various reasons. ‘When you bet on the horse race,” he said, “You bet for win, for place, for show. When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them….’ (As a book collector myself, I completely understand this philosophy—it’s never been enough just to read my books – I have to own them too).

And after having donated hundreds of thousands of books and documents to these different universities, Szathmary confessed “I am still buying books. It’s like getting pregnant after the menopause; it’s not supposed to happen.”
My all-time favorite Szathmary story is written in an article about obsessed amateurs. Writer Basbanes met Szathmary as the transfer of some 200,000 articles to the warehouses at Johnson & Wales was taking place. Szathmary was overseeing the transfer of his collection. Where, Basbanes asked the great chef, had he stored all this material?

With a twinkle in his hazel-brown eyes, Szathmary said, “My restaurant was very small, just one hundred and seventeen chairs downstairs for the customers to sit. But I owned the whole building, you see, and upstairs there were thirty-one rooms in seventeen apartments. That’s where I kept all the books”.

For many of us, we recognize in Louis Szathmary a kindred spirit. How to explain to non-collecting people the love of searching, finding, owning treasured books? One can only hope there are lots of cooks in Heaven. Meanwhile, here on earth, Louis Szathmary has left us with a wondrous legacy.

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.
“THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK” was published in 1972 by Quadrangle Books and is packed with mouth-watering recipes and lots of “Chef’s secrets” – tips provided by the master himself. “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book” was on the New York Times bestseller list for several years.
“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.
“THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOKBOOK” was published in 1976 and “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.
Szathmary also edited a fifteen volume collection of historic American cookbooks. One of the volumes in this series is “Cool, Chill and Freeze/A new Approach to Cookery” which I purchased from This is a reproduction, with introduction and suggested recipes from Louis Szathmary, of recipes from “FLORIDA SALADS” by Frances Barber Harris, originally published in 1926, and Alice Bradley’s ‘ELECTRIC REFRIGERATOR MENUS AND RECIPES”, first published in 1928 (oddly enough, I have both of the originals).

Included in the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series are “THE CINCINNATI COOKBOOK”, “RECEIPTS OF PASTRY AND COOKERY FOR THE USE OF HIS SCHOLARS”, “THE KHWAN NIAMUT OR NAWAB’S DOMESTIC COOKERY” (originally published in 1839 in Calcutta for European colonials living in India), “P.E.O. COOK BOOK” and the previously mentioned “AMERICA EATS” by Nelson Algren.

Since embarking on the life of Louis Szathmary, I have purchased three of his cookbooks from Alibris.Com on the Internet – they have a great listing! The most recent to arrive is a copy of “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook” which I was delighted to discover is autographed by the great chef—who was something of an artist, too! (Why am I not surprised?).
His ‘autograph’ is the face of a chef, wearing a white chef’s hat.
Louis Szathmary was a member of the United States Academy of Chefs, the Chef de Cuisine Association of Chicago, and the Executive Chefs’ Association of Illinois. In 1974, he was awarded the coveted titled of Outstanding Culinarian by the Culinary Institute of America, and in 1977, he was elected Man of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. He was considered by many to be the “homemakers best friend”, a master chef who willingly shared his secrets of culinary expertise with the world. His cookbooks read in a friendly, chatty way, making me wish with all my heart I could have known….this super chef! You would be wise to make an effort to add his books—if you don’t already own them—to your cookbook collection. Louis Szathmary was, above all, an excellent chef.

Nicholas Basbanes, in his article about Chef Louis for Biblio, described his first meeting with “this delightful, compassionate, brilliant man with the big white mustache”, relating “when I asked how it feels to give away books that were such an indelible part of his generous soul, Chef Szathmary responded, “The books I give away now, they stay in my heart, just like all the others. I don’t have to see them to love them.”
After writing about Louis Szathmary for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, I wrote about him again, on my blog, Sandychatter, which began in March, 2009. I wrote my updated article about Szathmary in 2011. To date, the post has received 131 messages—and THAT is what has inspired me to write about my favorite chef again.

In January, 2011 someone named Nancy wrote: “Sandy – I had the pleasure of working as one of Chef Louis’ personal assistants from 1985-1986. He certainly was a fascinating character and very aware of his own importance in cooking history. In addition to his extensive cookbook collection which included favorite church and community cookbooks (a personal favorite) Chef Louis also had an extensive post card collection. Seeing your blog about him brought back wonderful memories”.
In February, 2011, someone named Sue wrote: “Thank you so much for writing about Mr. Szathmary! I only ate at The Bakery twice, as I lived several hours away, but both times he came into the restaurant and greeted each table – such a new thing for a Midwesterner in the 70s & 80s. I have eaten in many famous restaurants since then but this first experience with great food and an interesting chef, in a unique setting, will always remain the most memorable and the best! I have all of his cookbooks and have slowly tried to collect the Americana series though some have been impossible to find.”

In March, 2011 a man named Dennis wrote: “Hi, Sandy-My wife and I had a ‘colorful’ experience working with/for Chef Louis, similar, it seems, to Grant Aschatz’s time with Charlie Trotter. Our first night in the city, the Chef bid us dine at the Bakery at his expense…but tip well! — it was great. Coincidentally, we sat at a table next to Mike and Sue Petrich; he was a wine representative for Mirassou wines. After dinner, the Petrichs and we went upstairs to our modest 3rd floor apartment rented to us by the Chef and his delightful wife, Sada. We survived four months and had a colorful story resulting from each day with the Chef. Barbara Kuch was there and incredibly helpful. The staff was wonderful. Our “larger than life” Chef brought old-world training values to his new world – such a challenge…for all. He was unbelievably generous and painfully demanding — beyond professional. Sadly, I had to witness the Chef physically threatening a very young apprentice for “f—ing up the chocolate moose.” Conversely, when my wife’s father was dying of cancer, the Chef said, “Shhh – don’t tell Sada – here is $250 for your flight home to see your dad.” I know Beethoven has an emotional breadth unequalled by all others musically; similar was Chef Szathmary in the realms of cuisine and people. Sandy – thanks for sharing; thanks for listening…there’s so much more. Thanks for the opportunity. Sincerely – d’crabb”

As you can imagine, pieces of a puzzle – the puzzle about the enigmatic Louis Szathmary – began to fall into place, through the Internet, through readers finding my article about him and wanting to share their experiences with the one and only Chef Louis.

In April, 2011, I received the following message from Helen “Hi Sandy, I must add my story. When I was about 35 years old I was married to a Hungarian. My name then was Muranyi. I was working in Chicago selling radio advertising. Unwittingly I made an in person sales call on Louis. He roared at the thought that he might need advertising. He explained that reservations were filled weeks in advance. However, he was such a sweetheart he invited me to his library to see his 14th century Hungarian cookbook and his test kitchen. Needless to say at his invitation my husband and I did dine there as often as possible and it was the “special” restaurant for occasions for the children. The two younger never got to go as they were too young and grudgingly bring it up still as adults that were cheated. Always when we did dine there we received a special appetizer (usually a baked white fish in white sauce) that we noticed other diners were not served. Could it have been that the reservation was made in the name Muranyi? Usually we had a tableside visit from Louis and sometimes his cute little Japanese wife. Actually I am searching for some information on her artwork that she had on the walls made from the wine corks. If you could be helpful in any way I would be grateful for any information or help. Those were special memories for my family. **

In July, 2011, someone named Juan wrote the following message: “Sandy, did you know that Chef Louis was responsible for the lobbying initiative that changed the US government’s classification of food service workers from ‘domestics’ to ‘professionals’. Chef Louis did, indeed, have a temper . . . . I worked there throughout my adolescence -Saturdays, school breaks, summer vacations- and I managed to get myself on the receiving end of it from time to time. Miss Lenegan (as Barbara Kuck often affectionately addressed Nancy) can attest to that! It took me a while, but I eventually realized that much of Chef Louis’ temper came from the fact that he cared deeply for and had high expectations of every single member of his “family” at The Bakery.

There were three different collage themes at The Bakery. Matchbooks, corks and obsolete currency. All of them were made by Louis and his wife Sadako (affectionately known as Sada or Auntie Sada) nee Tanino. The matchbook collages decorated the front room; the cork collages decorated “The Cork Room” (the main dining room); and the currency collages decorated “The Money Room” (the front room of the southernmost of the three storefronts used for private parties, banquets and the many cultural/social events that Louis hosted for the Hungarian community. could go on and on…….”

And in December, 2011, someone named Gabriele wrote the following: “How strange to come upon this blog today — I just happened to be wondering whether Sada was still alive and ran a Google search on her, and in the process came across your blog (which is quite lovely, by the way!).
I, too, worked with Chef Louis, but not in the kitchen. I was a part-time secretary who took dictation and typed up correspondence, articles, and whatever Chef needed. This was in 1993 and continued off and on for several years. My very young daughter came with me and stayed in her playpen except for lunchtime. She thought Chef Louis was Santa Claus!
He was working on a cookbook introduction and would ask me how to word things because he wanted to keep his Hungarian style while using proper English. It could be quite a challenge at times, and was always interesting. His wife, lovely Sada, was the epitome of grace, kindness and hospitality.

Chef Louis and I had some very interesting conversations about the Austro-Hungarian Empire as I had spent a college year in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He and lovely Sada will stay in my memories until I die. Thank you for such a wonderful post..”

Near the end of 2011, someone named Joan wrote the following message: “This is great!! I lived in Chicago until recently and LOVED Chef Szathmary and the restaurant. He was always generous and helpful and gave me perfect information re: products etc. Which brings me to why I was surfing his name. He had recommended a meat thermometer which I bought and which a guest recently broke, and I’ve been unable to find on line. It’s a La Pine (made in Switzerland). I see in his early correspondence that he’d provided a “form” to order it but I didn’t keep a copy. Do you by any chance have info regarding where I could look to order another??? Thank you so much!!!

Tributes to Chef Louis Szathmary continued to come throughout 2012:
In January, someone named Sue wrote: “…thanks for the write up on the Chef! I have his cookbook he signed for me with his legendary signature (he’d use 2 or 3 colored markers) where he made the L in Louis into a caricature of himself…the mustache, the chef hat were all drawn into the capital script L. I helped him with food prep for a tv show he was taping in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 70′s…I was only 12 or 13… he used my mom’s kitchen/stove to cook the turkey in the brown paper bag that he was going to pull from the oven on the show. Even though I was so young, he left a HUGE impression! I have used that cookbook so much that the pages are falling apart and I know it’s a treasure. Thanks for writing about him. ..”

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith


There are cookbooks to suit every occasion and many that most people would never think of – such is the SACAGAWEA COOKBOOK, by Teri Evenson, Lauren Lesmeister and Jeff Evemson, and featuring contemporary recipes.

Well, the first couple times I flew to South Dakota to visit my grandson in Pierre, SD, I was really surprised to discover how seriously South Dakotans take their pioneer history. My son Steve and I visited a wonderful pioneer museum and we took a long drive along the Lewis & Clark trail. We also drove the four hour trip to Rapid City to see the wondrous Mount Rushmore – which also has a fascinating museum.

My copy of the Sacagawea Cookbook was signed by all three authors and features photos and comments about Meriweather Lewis and William Clark.

It’s hard to imagine that their two-year journey across country took place over two hundred years ago. In the Introduction, the authors write, “We write this book in the spirit of remembrance and gratitude for a woman called by many names, claimed by many tribes, and the inspiration for many stories. We have incorporated some of the same plants, roots and meats that were available to her into contemporary recipes. We combed the journals of the Corps of Discovery for references to Sacagawea and placed them throughout this book. The art depicts scenes of the Corps’ journey as well as scenes from Indian life as it was likely to have been so long ago….”

They also write “Sacagawea teaches us to make the very best of our situations. As a tribute to this heroic woman, we have compiled this collection of recipes with many familiar flavors, yet as diverse as the tribes the Corps of Discovery met along the way. We did not restrict our recipes to the ingredients and methods Sacagawea would have used but embellished them with today’s flavors and styles…”

Poetically, they add, “Sacagawea walks through the mists of time, babe on back, pointing to a familiar landmark. She beckons us to retrace her steps and witness some of the sights and tastes that she experienced along the way.

Under the SOUPS category, Meriweather Lewis writes “11th February, 1805, About five o clock this evening, one of the wives of Chabono was delivered of a fine boy. It is worthy to remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases, her labor was tedious and the pain violent…” the baby boy born to Sacagawea was nicknamed “Pomp” by William Clark.

Under the soup category you will find Buffalo Cheese Burger Soup (sounds wonderful!) and Charbonneau’s Onion Soup which is similar to my recipe for onion soup—but I think I will make THIS recipe next time I am craving onion soup. There are also recipes for old Fashioned Vegetable Soup and Old Mandan Bean Soup.

From the journal of William Clark, he writes “20th August, 1806 I ascended to the high country and from an eminence, I had a view of the plains for a great distance from this eminence I had a view of a great number of buffalo than I had ever seen before at one time. I must have seen near 20,000 of those animals feeding on this plain. I have observed that in the country between the nations which are at war with each other the greatest number of wild animals are to be found….” (hard to imagine that white men almost wiped out the buffalo that was so plentiful two hundred years ago).

There are so many historical comments and so many recipes – my best suggestion is to find a copy of The Sacagawea Cookbook” for yourself. I am salivating over Tree Stick Jerky, Hazelnut Mushroom Pate, and an Oatmeal Cookie recipe that I think I will try today. I think I will make a batch of Grandpa’s Apple Butter as well.

I checked with and you can buy The Sacagawea Cookbook starting at 12 cents new or used with many available copies. Remember that pre-owned copies from private vendors will also cost you $3.99 for shipping/handling. Well worth the price! And, as an added bonus, has a lot of other books about Sacagawea that you might want to check out.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith


I wrote the following several years ago and posted it on my blog around 2011 or 2012. Bear with me as I go back in time once again to reflect on my favorite hobby and pastime for all of my adult life: Christmas.

It’s July and I have begun thinking about Christmas. Well, to tell the truth, I really start thinking about Christmas in January. This goes back to the late 60s and early 70s when I was raising four little boys and would search for clearance sale items right AFTER Christmas.
There is so much to plan and do for the holidays, but mainly my thoughts center around Christmas presents which are now stored, such as they are, in a spare bedroom. Throughout all the years we lived in Arleta, Christmas presents were stored in a very large built-in hall cupboard that I called (obviously) “The Christmas cupboard”.

Back in the day, I would send a box of books to my pen-pal, Eileen, in Australia. You had to get your overseas packages to the post office by September, so they would reach their destination by December (this was for surface rates. Airmail will get there a lot faster but costs quite a bit more). I used to send at least one box of books to Eileen each year. We loved the same authors, Eileen and I.

But our lives have changed quite a lot; we are now retired as are most of my penpals For years I sent Christmas parcels to all of them, little things picked up here and there along the way—or books. Now, no one can afford to exchange gifts although I still do exchanges with several of my penpals. My penpal Bev and I stopped exchanging Christmas presents but still do gifts for our birthdays which are on the same day.

I save up recipe booklets and inserts from cooking magazines to send to penpal Eve, who also lives in Australia—but there’s no timeframe for that. I just seal the envelope when it’s full. Indeed, all of our lives have changed and hardly anyone can afford to send gifts—not just the gifts but the cost of postage. Isn’t that sad?

I like to send some magazines and maybe a couple of jars of jam to my brother Bill every so often, not necessarily for Christmas. Ditto my brother, Jim. My sister Becky and I exchanged boxes of things throughout the year—often books—not for any particular reason – just because.

And speaking of my brother, Jim, I will always remember that he gave me my first books – five Nancy Drew mysteries – when I was about ten or eleven years old. It was an unforgettable moment in my life. What I discovered, then, was that it was not enough just to read the books: I had to own them, too).

However, all of this being what it is, I still continue to make up batches of jellies and jams, pickles and relishes—and start around in May when fresh strawberries become available in our supermarkets. My friend Bev often brings me some pureed blackberries when she and her husband visit me before heading for Arizona in January, to meet up with other Oregonian snowbirds for the winter. Blackberry is my favorite; not a lot gets given away.
I will still make little loaves of banana bread (and save up ripe bananas, mashed and measured in one cup increments, in the freezer) and I love to make fruitcake—but who is there to give fruitcake to any longer?

I like to make cookies and candy in the fall, to give as Christmas gifts—and last year my grandson, Ethan, became my sous chef in the kitchen as we made some Christmas cookies. He wanted to give Buckeye Balls (a kind of peanut butter candy that is dipped in melted chocolate to look like a buckeye) – those are very popular and well known in Ohio, my hometown, but not so much here. We bought pretty little boxes with plastic openings on the lids, at Michael’s and while I directed in the kitchen, Ethan actually made the buckeye balls and packaged them to give to some of his favorite people. He and his sister, Savannah (who is now 17 and not as preoccupied with cookies anymore) have been making cookies with me since they were very young children, maybe starting out around the age of eight.

I send cookies and candy to the claims department at the office where I worked for 27 years, with the help of an employee who lives in the Antelope Valley and does a delivery for me ever since I moved up here. I also send a jar of jam to friends who are still working there.
A word about cookies – some, like lebkuchen and gingerbread cookies can be made well in advance and allowed to mellow in a tightly closed container. A lot of cookies can be wrapped tight and stored in the freezer until the holiday draws near. Some are too fragile (such as meringue cookies) and shouldn’t be made until right before Christmas.

And I can’t recommend making them at all if you live in a humid State such as Florida. (This is the voice of experience talking—I lived in Florida for 3 years). Meringue cookies do keep pretty well in a dry climate such as the high desert, where I now live. If I am going to glaze or frost cookies, I don’t do that until I take cutout cookies out of the freezer just before Christmas, and then add my finishing touches. Gifts of cookies can be given to the girls at my post office, to my mail carrier, to my mechanic, or other service people who are in my life. Who doesn’t enjoy a box of freshly baked cookies? Last year, Ethan helped me take two large trays of cookies to the nurses at the chemo center where Bob underwent treatment throughout the year.

I have written in the past about the Christmas cookbooks in my collection – but this year, I would like to tell you about just one Christmas cookbook although there are dozens in my cookbook collection. And, since I have also written in the past about my own childhood Christmas memories, I thought it would be nice to share those of other (somewhat more prominent) writers.

“CHRISTMAS MEMORIES WITH RECIPES” is a collection of Christmas memoirs and recipes offered by famous chefs and cookbook authors. It was published by Kitchen Arts & Letters/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988. It is available on both Amazon and Alibris, some copies for as little as 25 cents, others – such as Alibris – has copies for 99c. But a word of caution—I found copies of the same book with the author being listed as Evan Jones or Martha Stewart – they are just contributors to the book itself. I will attempt to include a photograph of the book I am referring to. does have some other cookbooks with the very same title but judging from the covers, they’re not the same book.

And goodness knows—there are hundreds of Christmas-themed cookbooks and memoirs as well as dozens, if not hundreds, of cookbooks about cookie making. Before we moved to the desert, a friend came and created a spreadsheet for me on my computer—I logged on all of the Christmas/cookie titles and found I now have over 500 (yikes!) – a far cry from the days when my sons were children and most of my cookie recipes came from Farm Journal cookbooks or recipes I found in December magazines and cut out to put into a 3-ring binder, or cookie recipes exchanged with penpals. When one binder of recipes became too full to hold another sheet of paper I started another cookie binder – and when that was full….well you get the picture. I now have 7 binders for cookies. The oldest one was started in 1958 when I got married.

Included in CHRISTMAS MEMORIES WITH RECIPES are contributions from Bert Greene, Marion Cunningham, Martha Stewart, Maida Heatter, Helen Witty, Irena Chalmers, Julee Rosso, Beatrice Ojakangas, Evan Jones, Edna Lewis, Craig Claiborne, Betty Fussell – and others! And, although there are recipes included with each memoir, the recipes are really secondary to the thoughts and recollections of the various writers.

‘IT’S a lot like getting married,” Irena Chalmers offers. “There has to be a beautiful solemn bride in a long white dress and everyone gasping a she comes down the aisle. And all of us, craning to catch a glimpse of her as thought we had never seen her before. And then a heart-stopping moment when for a terrible second we all fear that he really has forgotten the ring. And then, of course, the best man finds it in his other pocket and the tension makes the relief all the sweeter. And in moments they are safely across the high wire and the vows are all completed and the organ is crashing out the Wedding March and the couple is dancing down the aisle and all the guests break out from orderly rows to greet the bride and groom, and each other, and the party is ready to begin….It’s like that,” she notes, “with Christmas dinner. Once you’ve embarked on it you’ve got to go the whole way: do it up properly with the plumpest turkey that ever there was and the sage and onion dressing and the chipolata sausages and the lumpy mashed potatoes and the gravy and the Brussels sprouts and the gooseberry sauce. And then, when there is not an inch of room left, the lights are turned out and in comes Father carrying the plum pudding borne on the silver platter….”

“Maybe the way to say it,” suggests Evan Jones, “is that Christmases make a mosaic of nostalgia. My memories begin with the year the first ice skates were the parental gifts for my siblings and me, and there is an odd bit of sentiment for the friend whose handmade cradle, much later, was his celebration of my own first child’s inaugural Christmas….”

Edna Lewis recalls Christmas in Freetown, writing, “When I was a girl growing up in a small farming community of Freetown, Virginia, preparations for Christmas started in early September, when we children went out to gather black walnuts, hickory nuts, and hazelnuts….Whenever she saw a break of a day or two from the September harvest, Mother would set about making the fruitcake. It was a family affair that my older sister and I cheerfully participated in….”

Craig Claiborne, writing of distant Christmases, states, “The Christmases that pass most often through my mind are from my early childhood, the most dramatic being when I was about four years old, and in a moment of innocence, set my family’s home ablaze…”

Betty Fussell recalls in brilliant clarity, a Depression Christmas on her grandparents’ farm in Riverside, California, while Jane Grigson writes that one of her earliest memories is of her father singing at Christmas. She says he had a “lovely tenor voice, clear, unaffected, warm, and joyful”. *(Grigson’s memory of her father singing made me think of my mother playing “Silver Bells” on our upright piano—she couldn’t read music and played entirely by ear).

Bert Greene remembers that while he is a Christmas lover, his mother was not. “Her yuletide animus,” writes Greene, “was undoubtedly affected by a traumatic childhood experience. She had been chosen to play Scrooge in a school production of Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL when she was about ten or twelve, and spent the better part of her lifetime, and my own, sneering, ‘Bah! Humbug!’ whenever the first snows fell. She was also a woman who, for one thing, hated shopping and, for another, hated cooking…”. Bert goes on to explain how the Christmases of his childhood were celebrated – during the Depression, when his family lost their house, silver serving dishes and wedding crystal—and the story he tells is heart-warming. When Bert’s mother complained that she didn’t have the Christmas spirit and “it will cost a fortune”, Bert took over. He volunteered to do all of the work and shopping—but he ran out of money and had to ask his mother for more.

His mother said “Just how much do you think it will cost to finance this damn foolishness?”

Bert recalls, “I dreaded to tell her. Ten Dollars”.

“Even as I write this,” says Bert, “almost fifty years later, it is hard to believe how much that amount of money actually represented. My mother and I stared at each other a long while, weighing the momentous sum before she carefully unbuttoned her coat. There, on the street, without glancing up or down, she quickly remove a bill from her boodle, a small bag that she always wore tucked into the top of her brassier.

‘Make it last,” she said wryly. “Try not to come home too late. And for God’s sake, don’t tell your father!”

“The party was a great success” remembers Bert. “All of the relatives ate well, demolished the desserts, and played games, and those who drank sang dirty songs afterward. All the cookies we made were carried off like Tiffany bibelots….” ***

(Bert’s story reminds me of the annual trips I made downtown (Cincinnati) when I was a child along with two younger brothers, sometime in December for a number of years. We might have no more than two dollars to buy presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings. My brother Bill’s money was mostly pennies, in a little change purse, that he held tightly in his fist to present any pickpockets from taking his money. It begs the question—how DID we manage bus fare, gifts for so many people—and sharing a grilled cheese sandwich at the Woolworth lunch counter? I can only compare it with the loaves and fishes in the bible story.) And we wrapped all of our presents with old gift wrap paper that was ironed to get the wrinkles out.

Maida Heatter, whose dessert cookbooks are familiar to all of us (including her “Maida Heater’s Book of Great Cookies”), tells the story of World War II, when she was a young mother with a one-year-old daughter. Her husband was in the army and her brother in the navy. Maida was living at home with her parents. Professionally, she says, she was a fashion illustrator—but her hobby was cooking. She tells the story of baking and mailing cookies to everyone she knew in the service. When the New York City USO wanted cookies for a big Christmas party, Maida began baking. “I baked those cookies,” she recalls, “from early until late every day for weeks. My only problem was getting enough boxes to pack them in. Food shortages and rationing (butter and sugar were strictly rationed) didn’t bother me, as there were always friends and neighbors who wanted to help. They gave me their ration coupons, they shopped for me and they helped pack the cookies. The filled boxes lined the entrance hall and the dining room flowed over into the living room. The day before Christmas a neighbor piled the boxes into his truck and my mother and I went along to deliver the cookies to the USO at Times Square. Gasoline was rationed but this was a priority delivery….”

“If I counted the cookies,” she writes, “or the number of recipes, that special Christmas, I don’t remember it now. One thing I do remember is that none of those cookies was dainty. They were all he-man cookies. The ones that had raisins or nuts had lots of them. The chocolate cookies were very chocolate. The spice cookies were very spicy. In a way, that one baking experience influenced everything I have baked since….”

(Maida provides the recipe for her mother’s gingersnaps, which I think I will have to try when I start baking Christmas cookies this year. Another cookie that has entered our lives—I was making batch after batch for a few months this year—is a molasses cookie that I found in the L.A. Times SOS column. My youngest son says they are like “a crack cookie” – you can’t stop eating them).

Helen Witty, whose “Fancy Pantry” cookbook is a favorite of mine, starts her memoir off with “Ways of keeping Christmas seem to drift down through the generations of a family, so it’s likely that the holiday customs I grew up with had been established on one coast or the other long before my mother, from the East, and my father, from the West, met in the Pugent Sound country, married, moved to Southern California, and began to bring up their own family. There, where snow and sleds and genuine holly were only a rumor, one family custom that came from somewhere was firmly maintained: the celebrations of Christmas Day began after breakfast, not before…” Helen goes on to relate her family Christmases, and sums up, “As in my childhood home, Christmas morning at our house still starts with a not-for-everyday breakfast…”

Her Christmas breakfasts reminded me of the many special Christmas breakfasts I prepared when my four sons were children, I’d bake a variety of sweet breads and stollen, but the piece de resistance in our household was always pork chops and gravy, a big pan of homemade biscuits, home fries and eggs, or occasionally, what I called a Mexican breakfast casserole. My husband’s mother was from Bluefield, West Virginia, and I learned the art of making what we called “white gravy” from her. If not pork chops, I’d fry cube steaks and then put them back into the white gravy after it was made.

There are heartwarming stories from twenty-five chefs and cookbook authors in “CHRISTMAS MEMORIES WITH RECIPES”. I’ve just given you a sampling—a small taste.

As the holidays draw near, we become busier and busier with shopping and addressing Christmas cards. During the years that Bob and I went to Pismo Beach for Thanksgiving weekend, I would take my cards and address book with me to start working on my cards and letters.

Last year (2011) was the most difficult Christmas. It was the first without Bob, who had shared my life for 26 years. I would have liked to go off and ignore the holiday, but was coaxed into putting up one of my trees—and my grandson, Ethan, was determined to put up the Snow Village, because it was one of those things his grandpa put up every year. I realized that so much of what we did—all the decorating inside and out—was accomplished only because Bob was such a willing spirit. He loved doing it. He loved the compliments.

Then a few angels made their way to the fireplace mantel and I found myself baking cookies and showing my grandson how to do some things. He and his sister also made gingerbread houses, from a kit we bought at Michael’s. After Christmas, I thought it was a good time to go through all of the ornaments and tree decorations; most had been packed in boxes and stored in a shed. I had some water damage to some of the boxes. Kelly took me to Walmart where I bought 20 large red and green plastic containers, and methodically went through all of the boxes, repacking everything in plastic containers that are now stored in Grandpa’s workshop. As I worked, I set aside all bear decorations/tree ornaments to send to my penpal, Betsy, who collects bears—with a suggestion that she put up a small bear tree. She liked the idea. I know I have to downsize but it’s a mammoth project that will take a lot of time to accomplish.
I hope we all will take a little time to reflect on Christmas, and what it means to each of us. These twenty five food writers have done just that. They have reflected on the Christmases of their pasts and have shared those memories with us. And much of what they have written reminds me so much of my own Christmas memories.

Author Julie Rosso sums up Christmas memories with words that all of us might appreciate: “Those years are long gone,” she writes, “and since that time there have been many Christmases in faraway places—some just like those of having as a child. We’ve found ourselves in Paris, New York, Vienna, Rome, Monte Carlo, and the Caribbean at Christmas time, and while it is ever so nice to visit other countries at Christmas, I’d give almost anything for one of those Christmases in Michigan, just once more”.
I haven’t spent any Christmases in other countries – but I would like to spend one, just once more – in Ohio, where it always seemed to start snowing on Christmas eve before we went to midnight mass.

“CHRISTMAS MEMORIES WITH RECIPES” was published by Kitchen Arts & Letter/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1988. It is available on both and; prices start as low as 4 cents on Amazon. Alibris has copies for 99c.

FANCY PANTRY BY HELEN WITTY is available on starting at $2.40 for a soft cover copy. It also has some ridiculous prices, such as $129.99 for a hardbound copy. Alibris also has the book for $2.40 – and copies priced at $251.99 and $241.74. I can’t imagine anyone actually paying that much for a cookbook you can get for far less.

Maida Heater’s Book of Great Cookies is available on for 99c. I couldn’t find the EXACT same title on so am not listing it. She does have a number of cookie cookbooks listed.

Well, I have rambled on long enough with you. Cookie recipes are available on my blog along with some photographs of previous cookie baking marathons. I woke up one morning recently and realized that Christmas will never again be as sumptuous as it was for Bob and myself, for several decades, especially in Arleta where we put up 8 Christmas trees. That idea of spending Christmas in Ohio is becoming more appealing. I hope your holidays are cheery and bright.