Category Archives: FAVORITE COOKBOOKS

ACKNOWLEDGING MICHIGAN FRIENDS & KINFOLK – A FEW OF THEIR COOKBOOKS

When I started collecting cookbooks in 1965, I really didn’t know where to begin, aside from making frequent visits to used book stores. I didn’t know a thing about collecting cookbooks—but I had a 1961 Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker and I thought there must be more like this, “out there somewhere”.

I wrote a letter to Tower Press’ Women’s Circle magazine in 1965 (a magazine for penpals) and mentioned being interested in buying, or trading for church or club cookbooks. Over 200 women responded to my request and I was kept busy for several months, buying cookbooks sight unseen or trading things like S&H Green Stamps – or whatever else the writer wanted. Many of those first cookbooks were remarkably good finds.

The best thing about that letter in Women’s Circle in 1965 was a letter from a woman in Michigan. She was a cookbook collector and she helped me find cookbooks; we became – and remained – friends; our children grew up, married, had children of their own. I went through a divorce and my Michigan friend lost her husband. A few months ago, she began downsizing to move into a smaller place, and has sent me boxes of books – not just cookbooks but other books as well, books about lighthouses (another pet interest of mine) and books about survivors of WW2. My cup runneth over.

After giving this a great deal of reflection, I thought that the best way I can show my appreciation for all that she has given to me – is by writing about some of these books.
I’m not sure whether I have more California church and club cookbooks or more if those from Michigan. The problem with counting the Michigan cookbooks is that they aren’t all in the same place – two of my largest bookcases are divided up as “east of the Mississippi” and “west of the Mississippi”. I know, probably sounds dumb but it SEEMED like a fairly good idea when I first came up with it. I have kept all of my California cookbooks together – currently they fill two bookcases in my bedroom and are double-rowed.

Sometimes I have to take everything off the shelves to find a particular book. Before we moved to this house in 2008, I was in a much larger house and had the California cookbooks divided into two parts – Northern California and Southern California. Now they are all mixed up. (One of these days I’ll get them sorted again).

In a bookcase in our spare bedroom, I have all the southern cookbooks filling up two bookcases on one wall and on the other wall, I have all of my Ohio cookbooks (separate from East of the Mississippi) because I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a separate collection of cookbooks from Cincinnati. Then I began putting the Michigan cookbooks on a shelf underneath the Ohio ones (although technically speaking, Michigan is ABOVE Ohio, not below it) – sometimes the sizes of books has a lot to do with how you file them on your shelves.

Well, as you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. Since I first posted “Battered, Tattered, Stained church and club cookbooks”, I have been going through a lot of my books trying to determine which ones would generate the most interest. Then I thought it would be nice to have a discussion on California cookbooks since they are one of my favorites. (The other favorite are my Cincinnati club and church cookbooks.)

But before I do that, I think I owe it to my friend Betsy to tell you about some of the Michigan cookbooks. In addition to having had a Michigan penpal for over 45 years, I also have a brother who lived in Michigan for several decades, and two of his offspring have chosen to remain in the Wolverine State.

I visited Betsy twice in the 1970s – thanks to her kindhearted husband who drove several hundred miles to Cincinnati to take me and my children to Michigan to spend a week with them-one of the most delightful experiences, back then, was going to the flea markets where you would find all sorts of old cookbooks, often priced for as little as ten cents each. But, my brother and his wife hosted a family reunion there one year, and I have made perhaps half a dozen trips to Michigan over the years; twice to visit my mother who was in a nursing home in Grand Rapids, once for my goddaughter’s high school graduation, once for my sister Becky and I to drive around Lake Michigan, searching for Light Houses. Whenever I am in Michigan, I want to find the book stores.

The year that my niece Julie was graduating from high school, her sister Leslie drove me to Ann Arbor – where Leslie had gone to college – and we had a wonderful afternoon searching out used book stores as well as the ones selling new books – particularly cookbooks.

One of the cookbooks I bought that year, 1994, was “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” published by the Ronald McDonald House with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. This is a thick spiral-bound cookbook with over 700 prized recipes. You may find yourself reading recipes for days but one I found outstanding is named “Sue’s Cheerios Snack”. Considered a great snack for tailgate parties, this is easy to make and would be a great snack for the kiddies too:

Pam cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick solid type margarine or butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 cups cheerios* cereal
1 cup Spanish peanuts
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 9×13” pan with Pam. Combine Cheerios, peanuts and raisins in pan. In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt until bubbly around the edges. Cook 2 minutes more (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda . Pour over cereal mixture. Mix well. Bake 20 minutes. Turn immediately onto wax paper. Let Cool.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: When “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” was published in 1994, we only had the one kind of Cheerios. I have been thinking this would be great to try with the chocolate Cheerios or the cinnamon flavored version. Bon Appétit!

At the time I posted this article in 2011, I did some checking on Amazon.com—you can buy Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II for as little as 59 cents (plus will be charged $3.99 shipping & handling from private vendors; they are also listing 2 new copies for $9.49. There are numerous other listings you can find on Google for this cookbook. I have been unable to verify whether or not you can still order copies from the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor. Maybe someone will know and enlighten me. **

One of my favorite Michigan cookbooks was not published by a church, club or any other organization –but it’s such a keeper, it deserves a spot on this post. The title of the cookbook is “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” by Larry B. Massie and Priscilla Massie.

From “Watermelon Pickles and Watermelon Cake we learn that “The Massies are a husband and wife team specializing in Michigan history. Larry co-authored with Peter Schmitt “KALAMAZOO: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS” and “BATTLE CREEK: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS.” His other publications include “FROM FRONTIER FOLK TO FACTORY SMOKE” “MICHIGANS FIRST CENTURY OF HISTORICAL FICTION”, “VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” “COPPER TRAILS AND IRON RAILS”, “MORE VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” and “WARM FRIENDS AND WODE SHOES: A PICTORAL HISTORY OF THE HOLLAND AREA.”

Priscilla was born in Kalamazoo in 1955 and traces her Michigan ancestry to Michel Campau, one of the one hundred Frenchmen who founded Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Priscilla’s research, photographic, word processing and culinary skills allow the Massies to participate in a wide range of Michigan history projects…” What wouldn’t I give to visit that century old schoolhouse and see the Massies collections!

I don‘t know HOW many times I’ve reached for this book to check some piece of information–It’s been a favorite reference book for many years. Subtitled “A CENTURY OF MICHIGAN COOKING”, this hard-cover with a spill-resistant cover was published in 1990 by Wayne State University Press in Detroit. And what the two Massies have done is provided recipes from church and club cookbooks dating back in some instances prior to 1900. The book is generously laced with drawings or illustrations of old-timey kitchen utensils – but one of my favorite features, I admit it freely, was the number of rhymed recipes including one my oldest finds for The Kitchen Poets, “Eve’s Pudding” dating from Detroit in 1878. One I will spare directions for is Perfect Mock Turtle Soup that starts out “Get a calf’s head with the skin on (the fresher the better) and before you say ew, ew, I want to add that an authentic MOCK turtle soup was commonly made with a calf’s head when real turtle was unavailable.

In the introduction, the Massies explain how their interest in old books was cultivated and grew from very early ages. They married and moved into an old one-room schoolhouse located in the midst of the Allegan State Forest. “Crowded within the main part of the structure is our collection of thirty thousand books, thirteen-foot high bookshelves surround all sides of a vast room. More shelves in the center of the room support a loft where Larry studies and writes about Michigan history…”

Priscilla has an attached room with a “Hoosier” cabinet (I had one when I was first married and didn’t have the sense to keep it before we moved to California); her kitchen cabinet was built in 1910 and is flanked on one side by a GE “monitor top” refrigerator made in 1932 and on the other, an electric range of similar vintage. They love history so much that they have surrounded themselves with period household furnishings.

Priscilla has antique kitchen utensils, cast-iron Griswold pots and pans and other domestic artifacts hang everywhere. The Massies have fulfilled the dictate to write about what you know the most about. More than thirteen hundred recipes from Michigan’s past are in this volume, dating from 1820s through the end of WW2.

“Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake” contains SO many recipes – and I think I copied most of the rhymed recipes when I was compiling the Kitchen Poets.

I have gone through this cookbook over and over, trying to decide which recipe to feature. I chose “Pickled Grapes” because I have seen pickled grape recipes featured on websites and blogs recently – as though a brand-new recipe. I made up a batch and it WAS new to me – but “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon cake have it dated 1899 by a Mrs. McCall in Kalamazoo!

To make Pickled Grapes:

Take grapes fresh from the stems without breaking and put them in a jar. For 7 pounds of grapes, take one quart vinegar, 3 pounds of sugar*, 1 TBSP whole cloves and the same of cinnamon bark. Boil it all together a few minutes, then let it cool until you can bear your finger in it; pour over the grapes, turn a plate over them; set them in a cool cellar and they are done. Do not cook the grapes nor heat the pickle over. If properly prepared they will keep a year and be as plump and fresh as when picked from the vines.

Well, I don’t have a cellar, and here in the high desert it can be a problem finding a spot cool enough. When I made sauerkraut about a year ago, we kept the crock in the coolest section of our garage which is in Bob’s workshop (attached behind the garage) and that worked – but I was making the kraut in March when it’s still relatively cool in the Antelope Valley.

If you want to make the pickled grapes you can keep them very well if you have a cellar or basement. If not, make them while the weather is still fairly cool.

*Sandy’s cooknote: 2 cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound, so you would need 6 cups of sugar to equal 3 pounds. 4 cups of vinegar equals one quart.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake”, the best prices I have found are on Amazon.com. They have pre-owned copies starting under $29.81 (higher than the prices I found listed in 2011)

Another good Michigan cookbook is “OUR BEST TO YOU” compiled by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1984. This cookbook is in a specially designed 3-ring binder that enables the reader to open the rings in case you want to put the page on the refrigerator door so you can make a recipe. The pages measure just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length. I haven’t been able to find any pre-owned copies in the most frequently websites that I visit. My guess is that it’s out of print and you may have to do some digging to find a copy. However, you don’t have to search very far for this easy Beef Brisket recipe:

1 4-5 pound beef brisket
Seasoned salt
Pepper
Dried minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash brisket thoroughly and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Brown in an open pan (I use a large cast iron skillet for this) for 30 minutes in the oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 1 hour. Layer the sliced onion over the meat and continue roasting an additional hour. Add water and cover, roast 1 hour more. Check for tenderness. Cool slightly and slice.

Note: Brisket may be prepared in advance. Reheat in pan juices before serving ~~~

Also published in 1984 and using the same format – the 3-ring binder that measures just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length is from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan and bears the title “Temptations.” In its Introduction we learn that the inspiration for the cookbook was based on the bounty of Michigan’s agriculture. The book contains over 500 recipes and here is a simple recipe from “Temptations” that is called Sesame Potato Spears. I love potato recipes that are not fried but are just as good if not better. This is the recipe for Sesame Potato Spears:

6 to 8 potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted (that would be half of one stick of butter)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup Dijon mustard (optional)

Peel the potatoes and cut into long strips. Melt butter in a loaf baking dish and stir in seasonings. Stir the potatoes to coat. Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour or until tender.
(Sandy’s cooknote: I am inclined to put the melted butter and seasonings into a plastic zip-lock bag and then put the potatoes on a Pam-sprayed baking sheet that you have covered with foil. That is how I make my baked fries.

Note: Dijon mustard will give it an extra tang. ~~

“Temptations” is still available on Amazon.com – They have 4 new copies available from $5.43 and 5 used copies starting at $2.87. ~

A third cookbook compiled in a 3 ring binder just under 6½”wide and just under 9½” in length that is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks is titled “THE HOUSE ON THE HILL” which is a bed and breakfast inn, published in 2002 by Cindy and Tom Tomalka. The Tomalkas tell us they have had over 3000 couples and singles visit the Inn since April 1997—who have consumed over 14,000 breakfasts.

You won’t believe all the recipes just for making muffins – now muffins are a favorite recipe of mine – and it was a muffin recipe I was following the first time I made muffins using my mother’s big yellow bowl – which I dropped and broke when I was about ten years old. Muffins can be sweet or savory and a simple muffin is ideal for a young child to make when they are cooking for the first time. Here is a recipe for Michigan Maple Syrup Muffins:

2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup butter, melted (*1/2 cup butter is one stick)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, syrup and butter. Gradually pour this egg mixture into a well I the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir quickly. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overbeat or muffins will be tough. Spoon into greased mini-muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 30 mini-muffins.
The House on the Hill Inn has its own website with information on ordering a copy of their oh-so-inviting cookbook. You can write to the Tomalkas at innkeeper@thehouseonthehill.com.

Another spiral bound cookbook published in 1983 is “CULINARY COUNTERPOINT” published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Cookbook. This cookbook offers some recipes with unforgettable names, such as Hanky Pankys, Blinking Star, and Strip and go Naked! The recipe for a Ohio culinary treasure is BUCKEYE BALLS. (You will find Buckeye Balls at many sweet shops throughout Ohio – maybe Michigan too). To make Buckeye Balls you will need:

3 1-pound boxes powdered sugar
2 lbs smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 pound butter, softened
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ stick paraffin

Combine the sugar, peanut butter and butter and beat well. Roll into small balls and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Melt the chocolate with the paraffin I the top section of a double boiler over hot water. Stick a toothpick in one of the peanut butter balls, then dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden. Repeat until all candies have been dipped in the chocolate. Makes about 60 candies.
Amazon.com has five copies for sale, starting at $5.98.

Another spiral-bound favorite is “Renaissance Cuisine” that went through three printings by the time I found it. This cookbook was the endeavor of The Fontbonne Auxiliary of St Joseph Hospital. The Fontbonne Auxiliary was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Nazareth in 1947,
I am often stymied when it comes to choosing just one recipe from a church or club cookbook-but the following might be good for company or something to getting cooking when you are home from the office and trying to get something cooking while you make up a salad to go with. Here is Chicken No Peek Casserole:

1 cup rice, uncooked
6 chicken breasts or pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 cup sherry
Slivered almonds

Grease a 9×13” pan. Place rice on bottom, place chicken on top of the rice. In a separate container, mix the mushroom soup and water and pour that over the chicken. Pour Sherry over chicken Sprinkle onion soup and slivered almonds over all. bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Do not peek. A fresh fruit or cranberry mold completes this meal.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: nowhere does the recipe advise you to cover the dish with foil before baking in the oven – but then it tells you not to peek. I would interpret that to mean it needs to be covered with foil. Someone else might interpret to mean not to look into the oven while it’s baking.)

Renaissance Cuisine is available on Amazon.com new or pre-owned starting at $1.59—and 4 new copies starting at $.43; you can’t beat that!

Although I have many more Michigan church and club cookbooks, most are probably not available on the internet. I tried to stick to cookbooks interested readers might have a chance to find.

Happy cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting!

Sandy

This was originally posted on my blog in 2011! prices for the cookbooks mentioned may be lower.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS

CHERYL AND BILL JAMISON are names you should recognize if you have been following my cookbook reviews for any length of time—I am unable to find my history on this couple at the present time—possibly because I lost a lot of material when I bought a new computer—and that came about after being seriously HACKED although I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be interested in hacking MY files – inasmuch as everything I have written about cooking and cookbook authors can be found on my Blog. Well, let me get to the point—I was unpacking a box of cookbooks to put on the shelves in the garage library (I think someone must have given them to me) and I found a cookbook by the Jamisons that I was totally unfamiliar with!

And it was published not so very long ago, in 2008 (for me, that’s recent); the title is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS, The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, with the intriguing subtitle “50,000 MILES, 10 COUNTRIES, 800 DISHES AND 1 ROGUE MONKEY” This book is in pristine condition with a spotless dust jacket that I wish I knew how to copy and post with this article. Published by Harper Collins, the dust jacket offers a charming photograph of the Jamisons, with the notation “Cheryl and Bill Jamison are the authors of more than a dozen cookbooks and travel guides. They appear regularly on television, and are frequent contributors to publications, including COOKING LIGHT and BON APPETIT. They live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.” I have to confess, my bafflement has just increased—I subscribe to both Cooking Light and Bon Appetit and don’t recall seeing any of their articles. (which means I will get out stacks of the latter magazine, which I keep, to search for the Jamisons)

Well, the first thing on MY mind, maybe yours too, was “Where did the Jamisons go? Per the dustjacket, “After years of writing award-winning cookbooks, renowned culinary experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison were ready for a break. So in the fall of 2005 they packed their bags, locked up their house in Santa Fe, and set off on a three-month-long visit to ten countries—all on frequent flyer miles. Among their stops were

Bali

Australia

New Caledonia

Thailand

India

China

South Africa

Brazil

–and don’t forget France

I have to add that this book reminds me so much of the foreign countries one of my favorite authors, Myra Waldo visited and wrote about decades before the Jamisons. I can’t help but wonder if the Jamisons knew about Myra Waldo or were inspired by her.

“AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS” is as much prose (their adventures) as it is poetry (the recipes). Now, there have been many cookbooks written about food in other countries (perhaps more so after WW2 than prior to it, when our soldiers returned home with new recipes and in many instances, brides as well—but anything that the Jamisons write is sure to be interesting and transporting the reader to another country.

And while “Around the World in 80 Dinners” may take you on charming visits to these countries, I have to tell you there are only actually ten recipes in the book itself (yes, I counted) – so you will have to read the book for the ADVENTURES more than the recipes—although there is one made with your Wok, Charred Long Beans with Black Olives, that I have already earmarked to try.

If you yearn for a cookbook providing more recipes, may I suggest another Jamison favorite, AMERICAN HOME COOKING, which contains over 300 recipes.

I really enjoy the Jamisons’ style of writing—whether recipes or travel adventures; you feel like you know them and are a part of their circle of friends.

 

Continue reading

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS-PART 8, ELIZABETH DAVID & MARY MARTENSEN

ELIZABETH DAVID:

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE”, originally posted July, 2011

The following is a cookbook review that I wrote in either 2000 or 2001 when “Is There a Nutmeg in the House” was published. Elizabeth David passed away in 1992 at her Chelsea home in England, where she had lived for forty years. Still, her books are eagerly sought after and new cookbook collectors would do well to search for them. In 2006, the BBC released a made-for-television film starring Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth. It was called “Elizabeth David: A Life in Recipes”. Not surprisingly; Ms. David led a most interesting life. You may want to find a copy of “WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF ELIZABETH DAVID” by Artemis Cooper.
This is what I wrote for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange a decade ago:
Devoted fans of Elizabeth David will be delighted to learn that, although one of the world’s greatest cookbook authors died in 1992, a new book of her work has been published.

The intriguing title, “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” begs investigation.
“Along with M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child,” the publishers begin, “Elizabeth David changed the way we think about and prepare our food. Her nine books, written with impeccable wit and considerable brilliance, helped educate the taste (and taste buds) of the postwar generation. Insisting on authentic recipes and fresh ingredients, she taught that food need not be complicated to be delicious…”

Elizabeth David, they explain, was a very private person who seldom gave interviews. However, a 1984 collection of her essays, entitled “AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE” greatly revealed Elizabeth David to her readers and is now considered the best food book written in the 20th century. Now, nearly 20 years later, comes the sequel to that book.

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” contains work covering four decades. Included is a considerable amount of material previously unpublished, found in her own files or contributed by friends to whom she had given recipes or to whom she had sent letters.
Jill Norman, Elizabeth David’s editor and friend for over 25 years is now the literary trustee of Elizabeth David’s estate. She was responsible for the posthumous publishing of “HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS” and then persuaded many of Elizabeth David’s friends to contribute notes on their favorite pieces for the anthology “SOUTH WIND THROUGH THE KITCHEN”.

In the introduction to “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” Jill explains, “in the early eighties, Elizabeth and I spent many very agreeable hours selecting the articles which appeared in her first anthology, “AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE”, published in 1984.
The kitchen in her house in Halsey Street may have been crammed with utensils of all sorts, but bookcases and shelves took up every wall in the other rooms and corridors overflowing with her substantial library of cookery, history, travel and reference books, and numerous files and folders of assorted papers”. (Be still my heart!).
Their routine, she explains, was to take a number of files each, select the pieces each found most stimulating, most expressive of the pleasures of good food, and likely still to appear to readers, and then to compare notes. It was, Jill says, “one of the most enjoyable editorial tasks I have ever undertaken. The articles were a pleasure to read, and Elizabeth’s reminiscences about the research and writing of many of them often kept us talking until late at night…”

In the end, they discovered they had too much material and decided to put some pieces aside for a later volume. “This, at last,” Jill writes, “is that volume: during the last years of her life, most of Elizabeth’s energy went into gathering material for “HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS” which was finished after her death and published in 1994”

“Elizabeth,” Jill says, “always read widely in early cookery books in English, French and Italian and enjoyed trying out their recipes. Many of those which she adapted from well-known English writers have appeared in her English books…”

“During the 25 years I worked with Elizabeth,” writes her friend and editor, “she was constantly experimenting and trying out new dishes, sometimes for a book, sometimes because a food she or one of her friends particularly liked was in season, or because there was a dish she wanted to explore more thoroughly. When she was satisfied with the recipe and it was typed in its final form, it was her custom to give copies, usually signed and dated, to friends. Many subsequently appeared her later books but others which did not are included here. The folders from her house yielded many unpublished recipes, and occasionally accompanying articles….

With few exceptions,” says Jill, “none of the material in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” has appeared in book form before…”

She further explains that Elizabeth recipes were written as a text to be read, not, as is currently the norm, a list of ingredients in the order to be used followed by a list of instructions.

The essays in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” are charming and witty, and provide more than a glimpse into the world of Elizabeth David, a woman whose life would have been fascinating even if she had not embarked on cooking and writing about it!

I was especially intrigued with what Elizabeth David had to say about making stocks and broths. This is something I am personally acquainted with, having recently turned my attention to making my own stocks and broths. (The major drawback, when someone wants to know how you made this soup…is that you’ll never have this recipe again—much of what goes into my vegetable stock depends on the vegetables in my refrigerator (or what is in season and growing in our garden) at the time I have decided to make soup. I make a ham stock out of ham bones and left over ham bits, then strain it, remove any fat, chop up the meat, and then chill it. The next day I make my bean or pea soup. But I digress).

Elizabeth David had very definite ideas about the making of stock, and thoroughly disdained the old English cookbooks, including those of Mrs. Beeton, who instructed the cook that “…everything in the way of meat, bones, gravies and flavourings (sic) that would otherwise be wasted” should go into the stock-pot. “Shank-bone of mutton, gravy left over when the half-eaten leg was moved to another dish, trimmings of beef, steak that went into a pie, remains of gravies, bacon rinds and bones, poultry giblets, bones of roast meat, scraps of vegetables…such a pot in most houses should always be on the fire.” Ew, ew!

Elizabeth responds, “Heavens, what a muddy, greasy, unattractive and quite often sour and injurious brew must have emerged from that ever-simmering tub…”

She goes on to tell her readers how to make a good stock and why a bouillon cubes don’t really make the grade. “Taking Stock” is an essay from the Spectator, published in 1960.

There are numerous essays in “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” (plus over 150 recipes), and I think you will, as I did, enjoy them all. But I was most curious to learn how the title of the book came about. Sure enough, beginning on page 91 is an essay, “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE” which was, I discovered, taken from a Williams-Sonoma booklet published in 1975.

Elizabeth tells the story of Joseph Nollekens, an 18th century English sculptor who was famous for his portrait busts of famous men and women of his day. While Mrs. Nollekens had the peculiar habit of scrounging free spices from the grocer, her husband filched nutmeg from the dinner table of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Mrs. Nollekens, when she shopped for tea and sugar, would always request, just as she was ready to leave the store, to have either a clove or a bit of cinnamon to take away an unpleasant taste in her mouth—but was never seen to actually put it into her mouth. Between the two of them, they managed to accumulate a little stock of spices – free.

Elizabeth goes on to provide an essay on nutmeg, which was enormously popular in the 18th century. “It was a civilised fad,” she writes, “that eighteenth-century love of portable nutmeg graters for the dining-room, and the drawing room hot drinks, and for travelling. I see no reason why w shouldn’t revive it. It is far from silly to carry a little nutmeg box and grater around in one’s pocket. In London restaurants, such a piece of equipment comes in handy. Here, even in Italian restaurants, I find it necessary to ask for nutmeg to grate on to my favourite plain pasta with butter and Parmesan, and for leaf spinach as well…?”

She continues with a bit of history on nutmeg and explains the difference between nutmeg and mace. “Mace,” writes Elizabeth, “is a part of the same fruit as nutmeg and has a similar aroma, but coarser, less sweet and more peppery…”

Elizabeth would be pleased to learn, I think, that I have whole nutmeg and a nutmeg grater in my kitchen cupboard. I would have never thought to take it with me to a restaurant, though.

“IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” is utterly delightful and charming, written in Elizabeth David’s unique style. Compiled by Jill Norman, it was published by Viking in 2000. The price is $29.95.

Anyone who enjoys “reading cookbooks the way other people read novels” (how often have we heard that!) will be sure to enjoy this delightful book.

*I checked with Amazon and there are dozens of Elizabeth David’s books available, both new and used. The lowest price for “IS THERE A NUTMEG IN THE HOUSE?” is under $1.00 preowned. A new copy is available for $12.98.

A copy of “WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE” is available 39cents for preowned copy available at this time on Amazon.com. (plus $3.99 shipping charges for pre-owned titles) But don’t overlook Barnes & Noble’s website or sites like Alibris.com when you are searching for particular titles.

And Oh! Be still my heart! Released March 1, 2011, “AT ELIZABETH DAVID’S TABLE; CLASSIC RECIPES AND TIMELESS KITCHEN WISDOM” by Elizabeth David, Rick Rodgers and Ruth Reichl. (Rick Rodgers and Ruth Reichl are both well known cookbook authors. Ruth Reichl was the editor of “Gourmet” magazine before it closed its doors but is now devoting her time to writing; She is the author of RUTH REICHL, MY KITCHEN YEAR, published in 2015).

Elizabeth David is the author of the following:

*MEDITERRANEAN FOOD, 1950
*FRENCH COUNTRY COOKING, 1951
*ITALIAN FOOD, 1954
*SUMMER COOKING, 1955
*FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING, 1960
*SPICES, SALT AND AROMATICS IN THE ENGLISH KITCHEN, 1970
*ENGLISH BREAD AND YEAST COOKERY, 1977
*AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE, 1984

OTHER POSTHUMOUS PUBLICATIONS:

*HARVEST OF THE COLD MONTHS, 1994
*SOUTH WIND THROUGH THE KITCHEN: THE BEST OF ELIZABETH DAVID, 1998
*ELIZABETH DAVID’S CHRISTMAS, 2003
*ELIZABETH DAVID’S CLASSICS (Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, Summer Cooking) 1980
*AT ELIZABETH DAVID’S TABLE: HER VERY BEST EVERYDAY RECIPES, 2010

You may also wish to find a copy of “ELIZABETH DAVID: A BIOGRAPHY, by Lisa Chaney.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook reading!
–Sandra Lee Smith

**
WHO WAS COOKBOOK AUTHOR/RECIPE COLUMNIST MARY MARTENSEN?

Originally posted 2011

Sometimes it simply starts with an old recipe card or a clipping with a name on it and you aren’t always sure where on earth you found it, especially if the clipping is very old and yellowed. Well, I do collect old recipe boxes, preferably with old recipe collections intact and this is sometimes where interesting clippings, or clippings pasted onto 3×5” cards turn up. Such is the case with the first recipe I found of Mary Martensen’s. It was a clipping pasted on a 3×5” card with directions for making pea soup.

From the introduction in one of her cookbooks, we learn that Mrs. Martensen was a graduate in Home Economics and Dietetics, having studied at the Boston School of Domestic Science, Simmons College and the Teachers College of Columbia University. Her first experience was as Director of Home Economics for the schools of Concord, New Hampshire. While there she also conducted courses in dietetics at the Concord City Hospital each week, and in Home Economics at Mount St. Mary’s Academy at Hookset, New Hampshire.

Following this, Mrs. Martensen became dietitian at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, leaving this position for the Home Economics Department of “a great packing company” (presumably Armour founded in 1867 by the Armour brothers following the Civil War). Here, in four seasons Mrs. Martensen conducted newspaper cooking schools in thirty-five states, lectured to women’s clubs in Chicago and its suburbs, and contributed to the household page edited in her department. She also prepared many recipe booklets, among them “Sixty Ways to Serve Ham” which I believe was compiled for Armour around 1935. During the last 2 years of this period Mrs. Martensen was the directing head of the department. Then followed five years as head of a Home Economics Department which she established for one of the largest baking powder companies in America. (No indication is given for the name of the baking company. Royal, Clabber Girl, and Rumford were three popular baking powder companies getting a strong foothold in the food industry in the late 1800s, early 1900s, however.)
In January, 1927, Mrs. Martensen established a Home Economics Department for “a large western newspaper” where she remained until she was selected by the Chicago Evening American for the position she was holding at the time her first cookbook was published–not counting pamphlets or booklets she may have authored prior to this. [I’m thinking that Mrs. Mary Martensen would have given Ida Bailey Allen a run for her money, as a contemporary in the 1920s writing for food manufacturers, conducting radio recipe programs and then branching out to compile cookbooks.]

Within a few months, the auditorium originally fitted for the newspaper Home Ec department of the Chicago Evening American had to be enlarged to double its size and capacity. Three courses of lessons were given in the first year of the department’s operation, with a total attendance of 6,600.

Editorially, Mrs. Martensen conducted a daily column in the Chicago Evening American, which was amplified to four columns on Mondays and Fridays, and a full page every Saturday in the American Home Journal. Her material was illustrated on Mondays and Saturdays with photographs and sketches made in her department of special dishes and table settings created in the department (The recipe page that a Sandychatter subscriber sent to me was published on a Thursday in the Chicago Herald American and along with recipes for strawberry chiffon pie and pineapple cheese pie, featured lovely illustrations – even in black and white—of a coconut wreath circling the pineapple cheese pie and another illustration of an ice cream pie.) And, apparently, at some point in time, Mrs. Martensen’s recipe columns were picked up by King Syndicate for release to other newspapers throughout the USA.

In the department’s first year, over 21,000 letters were received from readers and over 4,200 telephone calls responded to. Twenty five lectures before women’s clubs, farmers’ institutes, parent-teacher associations and high school classes were conducted. In addition to all this, Mrs. Martensen conducted weekly radio talks.
Mary Martensen was writing a column for the Herald American newspaper in 1950. I believe she was writing newspaper columns in the 1930s and 1940s as well. She also wrote “Mrs. Mary Martensen’s Recipes Cookbook/Chicago American” which I would SWEAR that I have, but to date have been unable to find. This was a newspaper-sponsored cookbook for the Chicago American.

Prior to this, the author worked for the meatpacker Armour Company* where she authored the popular, “Sixty ways to Serve Ham”

*Sandy cooknote: The information I discovered online about the Armour Company and the many different products they manufactured nearly sent me into a tailspin, wanting to read and learn more about Armour—I had to force myself to stay on track with Mary Martensen.

In 1933, Mrs. Martensen wrote “Century of Progress Cookbook*” – so far I have not been able to lay my hands on any of Mary’s cookbooks. However, any number of her newspaper columns have survived over the decades. In fact, a Sandychatter subscriber bought some perfume bottles and found a 1950 sheet of newspaper with Mary Martensen’s Strawberry Chiffon Pie and Pineapple Cheese Pie featured on that date, June 22, 1950 – and sent a copy of it to me.

In addition to its widely syndicated Sunday magazine “The American Weekly”, the Journal-American had a Saturday supplement called Home Magazine, as well. Mary’s columns appeared in this newspaper supplement as well.
Zirta Green, who balanced a career with motherhood and home long before it became fashionable was a test kitchen chef for the Chicago Herald American and Chicago Tribune newspapers for their cooking and recipe columns from 1953-1966, and later for the Mary Martensen TV cooking show, broadcasted on WBKB Chicago, ABC-TV, around 1954. (*This short paragraph about Mrs. Green was the only indication I discovered about Mary Martensen having a TV cooking s how –back in the day, long before TV cooking shows were so popular!

An illustration/portrait of Mary Martensen was published in her first cookbook; it shows a very pretty blonde haired woman, nicely dressed, with a sweet smile.

Not much more is known about Mary Martensen – although if anyone reading this knows more, I would love to hear from you. However, some of her recipes crop up if you take the time to surf Google patiently. The first one I am offering is the recipe I originally found on a recipe card.

To make MARY’S SPLIT PEA SOUP you will need:
1 cup dried split peas
2 ½ quarts cold water
1 pint milk
½ onion
2” cube fat salt pork
3 TBSP butter or margarine
2 TBSP flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Pick over peas and soak several hours in cold water to cover. Drain, add cold water, pork and onion. Simmer 3 or 4 hours or until soft. Put through a sieve*. Add butter and flour and seasonings blended together. Dilute with the milk, adding more milk if necessary. Note the water in which a ham has been cooked may be used. Omit the salt.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you don’t have a sieve, you can blend the peas in your blender but I would suggest cooling it down somewhat, first, and only do half a blender-full at a time so it doesn’t splash. When I make pea soup I like to cook the peas and whatever other ingredients (carrots, onion) -except meat – and blend it in my blender to make it smooth. Then add some leftover ham if you want it in your soup. We like very thick soups, more like chowders. What I usually do is cook a hambone and then set it aside. Use the stock from the hambone then to cook the peas. (And if you take the time to chill the stock, you can easily remove the fat that rises to the top and solidifies). While the peas are cooking, cool the hambone and remove all the bits of meat to put back into the pot later. Ok, it’s a little more work this way–but you will have a fine pot of soup. (Some things do take longer – but I guarantee, if you cook a hambone and use those scraps of meat – you will have a delicious stock AND most flavorful meat. It will beat a package of pre-diced ham bits from the supermarket hands down!)

Here is Mary’s recipe for SUNSHINE CAKE, 1946
1 cup sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks, beaten
7 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon any desired flavoring (I recommend lemon extract)
Preparation Instructions

Sift the flour once, measure and resift twice with the salt. Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, but not dry. Add the sugar gradually and beat until the mixture holds in soft peaks. Fold in the beaten egg yolks and flavoring. Fold in the flour gently but thoroughly to avoid breaking air cells in the egg mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased ten-inch tube pan and bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for about 50 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven and invert for one hour, or until cool. When cool, frost with a thin coating of confectioners’ sugar, or sprinkle with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

MARY MARTENSEN’S POPCORN BALLS, 1946
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark corn syrup
3 quarts salted popped corn

Combine molasses, corn syrup and vinegar in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until a small amount of syrup will form a hard ball when dropped into cold water. This is about 270 degrees if tested with a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat, add the butter and pour over the popped corn, stirring only enough to mix. Form into balls with the hands, using as little pressure as possible. Makes 16 to 18 balls.

(Sandy’s Cooknote *I can’t wait to make this. I buy a big bottle of molasses from a warehouse-type of supermarket in Palmdale, called Smart & Final because I love to make molasses cookies—and I like adding a small amount to the white Karo syrup when I am making caramel corn).

From a Sandychatter reader: “I have my grandmother’s collection of recipes and cookbook. In there I found 2 pages of dumpling recipes from the Chicago Herald American, Home Economics Department, Mary Martensen, Director. They are hand typed and the photo copied from some sort of note book then mailed to my grandmother. I was interested so I did a little research. The Newspaper was the Chicago Evening American from 1914-1939 then it became the Chicago Herald-American 1939-1953 then the Chicago American from 1953-1969.” Tina Aiello Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(*Sandy’s Cooknote: Tina, if you happen to read this, would you share some of your grandmother’s recipes with me?. When Mary’s first cookbook was published some pages were deliberately left blank just so someone could add their own recipes or clippings.)

MARY MARTENSEN’S CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preparation Instructions
Cream the shortening, add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate which has been melted and cooled, and blend well.

Sift the flour once, measure and resift twice with the soda and salt. Add to the batter alternately with the buttermilk, beating until smooth after each addition. Add vanilla. Fill twelve cupcake pans which have been greased, two thirds full with the batter. Bake in a 350 degree oven, for about 20 minutes or until done.
When cupcakes are cool, with a small sharp pointed knife cut a cone-shape from the top of each. Remove and fill hollowed out portion with slightly sweetened whipped cream. If desired, a larger hollow can be made in the cupcake. Also, ice cream can be used in place of whipped cream to fill the hollow centers. Place top (which was removed from cupcake) on top of whipped cream and pour chocolate sauce over the top.
To make the chocolate sauce: Combine in a saucepan, one square unsweetened chocolate, cut in pieces, one cup sugar, two tablespoons corn syrup, one tablespoon butter and one-third cup hot water. Blend well and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to boiling point, then cook for five minutes. Cool slightly and add a few grains of salt and one half teaspoon vanilla. Serve warm or cold. Contributed by
MARY MARTENSEN, 1946

From another Sandychatter reader, Rebecca Christian “I was interested in the Mary Martensen recipe. I worked as a test kitchen home economist in the test kitchen of Chicago’s American newspaper from 1967-1970. Mary Martensen was the nom de plume of the food editor who at that time was Dorothy Thompson. We had about 35,000 recipes in our files and they are still some of my best ones. Wish I had those files now!
Rebecca also wrote “Chicago’s American was eliminated as the afternoon paper of the Chicago Tribune around 1970 or 71. Don’t know if the Tribune kept the recipes or not. There are Chicago Tribune cookbooks but I don’t think they had any American recipes. Each paper owned by the Tribune as well as the Chicago Daily News had test kitchens at the time. We tested every recipe that went in the American. Those days are long gone! Becky.

(*Sandy’s cooknote – Oh, Rebecca – what wouldn’t we all give to have Mary’s recipes today! I’m pea-green with envy that you had the opportunity to work in the test kitchen of Chicago’s American newspaper from 1967-1970—I was busy giving birth during most of those years. Lol).

*Sandy’s cooknote – there are a lot of gaps in my story about Mary Martensen. I don’t know where she grew up or where she spent most of her life. I don’t know how long she lived even though we DO know that Zirta Green was a test kitchen chef of Mrs. Martensen’s who lived to the age of 97! On previous occasions when I mentioned Mary Martensen, readers responded with comments I have included in this post.

The best I can hope to achieve is more details becoming available to us – I am reminded of writing about Myra Waldo, first years ago (around 1990) when I was unable to learn ANYthing about Myra’s later life – and then years later, when I was rewriting my manuscript about Myra, I found obituary details on Google, not previously available to me. I like the idea “if you build it, they will come”

Cookbooks by Mary Martensen:

Home Canning and Freezing Book- or The Canning, Freezing, Curing & Smoking of Meat fish game – date unknown, possibly 1935
CENTURY OF PROGRESS COOKBOOK 1932
Mrs. Mary Martensen’s Recipes Cookbook Chicago American”
SIXTY WAYS TO SERVE HAM, Armour Ham, 1935
RECIPES FOR WILD GAME 1935?

(Sandy’s final cooknote: If anyone knows more about Mary’s cookbooks, such as dates of publication, or any other food editors writing under Mary Martensen’s name—or her other book titles please write!)
Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook collecting!

Sandy@ sandychatter

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

Originally posted 1/2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I found the following titles while doing several searches:

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

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

BUNNY’S JOY
Originally posted 5/3/13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandra Lee Smith

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS – (PART TWO–THE BROWNS, HENRI CHARPENTIER, AND MARION CUNNINGHAM)

AN UPDATE ON THOSE INCOMPARABLE BROWNS: CORA, ROSE, AND BOB BROWN, COOKBOOK AUTHORS

Posted on May 24, 2012 | 13 Comments |

(Originally posted February 13, 2011)

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

Betsy was the person who “introduced” me to the Browns – Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, authors of over a dozen really fantastic, outstanding cookbooks. Betsy had some duplicates of the Browns’ cookbooks and sent them to me. Well, I was quickly hooked. And it was the Browns’ “America Cooks” (published 1940 by Halcyon House), that really turned me onto church-and-club community cookbooks. (I was stunned to see “America Cooks” listed at $300 by an antiquarian book dealer. I bought an extra copy for $5.00 some time ago and gave it to someone who didn’t have a copy!)
Every one of you who reads cookbooks like novels (and thinks you are the only person in the world who does this) would find “America Cooks” a most readable cookbook. Since “America Cooks” was published in 1940, others have followed in the Browns’ footsteps with dozens of cookbooks with “America” in the titles. None can compare with The Browns’ “America Cooks”.

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

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

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

Cora Brown, Robert’s mother, was born in Charlotte, Michigan, graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of music, married and brought up a family. She took up writing fiction and in 1920 went to Brazil to become co-publisher with her son and daughter in law, Rose. Cora lived with Bob and Rose in Japan, China, France, Germany, etc, becoming familiar with foreign customs and kitchens and collecting recipes with Rose. Cora is the author of “The Guide to Rio de Janeiro” and co-authored ten cookbooks with Bob and Rose.
Rose Brown was born in Middletown, Ohio (not far from my hometown of Cincinnati), and graduated from Barnard College and Teachers College. She was a teacher, interior decorator, and journalist, contributing articles on cooking to Colliers, Vogue, This Week and other magazines. Rose was co-author with Cora and Bob on most of their cookbooks. One cookbook that does not list Cora is “Look Before You Cook” which shows Rose and Bob as authors. One cookbook authored solely by Bob Brown is “The Complete Book of Cheese.” “Culinary Americana” was written by Eleanor Parker and Bob Brown—Eleanor becoming Bob’s wife after Rose’s death.

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

Bob brown was born in Chicago and was graduated from Oak Park High School and the University of Wisconsin. He arrived in New York in 1908 to enter the writing lists, contributing verse and fiction to practically all the periodicals of the time. One of his first books, written after the end of Prohibition, was called “Let There Be Beer!” He then collaborated with his mother and wife Rose on “The Wine Cookbook,” first published in 1934 and reprinted many times. A 1960 edition was re-named “Cooking with Wine” .
Robert Carlton Brown (1886-1959) was a writer, editor, publisher, and traveler. From 1908 to 1917, he wrote poetry and prose for numerous magazines and newspapers in New York City, publishing two pulp novels, “What Happened to Mary” and “The Remarkable Adventures of Christopher Poe” (1913), and one volume of poetry, “My Marjonary” (1916).

In 1918, Bob Brown traveled extensively in Mexico and Central America, writing for the U.S. Committee of Public Information in Santiago de Chile. In 1919, he moved with his wife, Rose Brown, to Rio de Janeiro, where they founded Brazilian American, a weekly magazine that ran until 1929. With Brown’s mother, Cora, the Browns also established magazines in Mexico City and London: Mexican American (1924-1929) and British American (1926-1929).
Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Browns retired from publishing and traveled through Asia and Europe, settling in France from 1929-1933. Brown became involved in the expatriate literary community in Paris, publishing several volumes of poetry, including” Globe Gliding” (1930), “Gems” (1931), “Words” (1931), and “Demonics” (1931), as well as “1450-1950” (1929), a book of visual poetry.

While in France, Brown also made plans toward, and wrote a manifesto for, the development of a “reading machine” involving the magnified projection of miniaturized type printed on movable spools of tape. Arguing that such a device would enable literature to compete with cinema in a visual age, Brown published a book of “Readies”—poems by Gertrude Stein, Fillipo Marinetti, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and others, typeset in a manner appropriate to operation of his projected reading machine.

Although Brown’s reading machine was never developed, his papers include letters and papers pertaining to its projected design and technical specifications, as well as a collection of his own published and unpublished visual and conceptual writing. (Bob Brown was way ahead of his time – today, we have the Kindle and Nook. I can’t help but wonder if someone came across his manifesto and ran with it).

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

After thirty years of living in many foreign countries, and following the deaths of Cora and Rose, Bob Brown closed their mountain home in Petropolis, Brazil, and returned to New York, where he married Eleanor Parker in 1953. Brown continued to write and ran a shop called Bob Brown’s Books in Greenwich Village and ran a mail order business until his death in 1959. Shortly after Brown’s death, a new edition of “1450-1950” was published by Jonathan Williams’s Jargon/Corinth Press.

During his lifetime, Bob Brown authored more than a thousand short stories and thirty full length books.

The Browns appear to have used a number of different publishers for their cookbooks. While “Soups, Sauces and Gravies,” “Fish and Sea Food Cookbook,” Salad and Herbs” were published by Lippincott, “The Complete Book of Cheese” was published by Gramercy Publishing Company. “America Cooks” and “10,000 Snacks” were published by Halcyon House and “The European Cook Book” by Prentice-Hall, Inc. A few were published by companies I am unfamiliar with; “The Country Cookbook” by A.S. Barnes and Company, and “Most for Your Money Cookbook” by Modern Age Books. “Culinary Americana”, co-authored by Brown Brown and Eleanor Parker Brown, was published by Roving Eye Press (Bob Brown’s own publication name). For whatever reason, the Browns appear to have shopped around whenever they had a book ready for publication. (Or did they copyright them all first, and then shop for publishers?)

Recently, I began to rediscover the fabulous cookbooks written the Browns. Some unexpected surprises turned up—for instance, as I was browsing through the pages of “Most for Your Money” I found a chapter titled “Mulligans Slugullions, Lobscouses and Burgoos”—while I am unfamiliar with mulligans and lobscouses, I’ve written about slumgullion stew in sandychatter and have received messages from readers from time to time, sharing their stories about slumgullion stews of their childhoods. It starts out “Jack London’s recipe for slumgullion is both simple and appetizing…” providing some enlightenment about the history of slumgullion. (some other time, perhaps we can explore the obscure and mostly forgotten names of recipes).

And – synchronicity – I had just finished writing about sauces for my blog when I rediscovered, on my bookshelves, the Browns “Soups Sauces and Gravies” which simply reaffirmed my belief that the best cookbooks on sauces will be found in older cookbooks. This cookbook by the Browns was published in 1939.

The most complete list I have of the Browns’ cookbooks is as follows:

The Wine Cookbook, by Cora, Rose & Bob Brown, originally published in 1934, revised edition 1944, Little Brown & Company. In 1960 Bob Brown published a reprint of The Wine Cookbook with the title “Cooking With Wine” and under his Roving Eye Press logo.

The European Cook Book/The European Cookbook for American Homes is apparently the same book with slightly different titles. Subtitled The Four in One book of continental cookery, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France. I saw and nearly purchased on the internet an English version of the same book from a dealer in England.

I already have three copies, don’t need a fourth! However, it should be noted that the original European Cook Book for American Homes was published in 1936 by Farrar & Rinehart. The 1951 edition with a shortened title was published by Prentice-Hall.

The Country Cook Book by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1937 by A.S. Barnes and Company.

Most for your Money Cook Book, by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by Modern Age Books

Salads and Herbs, By Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1938 by J.B. Lippincott

The South American Cookbook (what I have is a Dover Publication reprint first published in 1971. The original was published by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1939 – Cora, Rose and Bob Brown
Soups, Sauces and Gravies by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott Company

The Vegetable Cookbook by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1939 by J.B. Lippincott

America Cooks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 by Halcyon House.

Outdoor Cooking by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1940 The Greystone Press (*notes that parts of this book appeared in Collier’s and Esquire magazines)

Fish and Seafood Cook Book by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, published 1940 by J.B. Lippincott Company

Look Before you Cook by Rose and Bob Brown, published 1941 by Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.

10,000 Snacks by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown, published 1948 by Halcyon House—the format and chatty style of 10,000 snacks is quite similar to “America Cooks”.

The Complete Book of Cheese, by Bob Brown, published 1955 by Gramercy Publishing

Culinary Americana by Eleanor Parker Brown and Bob Brown is a bibliography of cookbooks published in the cities and towns of the United States during the years from 1860 through 1960. It is believed that the first fund-raiser cookbook was compiled and published during the Civil War, by women to raised money for the Sanitation Commission. Culinary American focuses primarily on “regional” cookbooks, and notes that, “Certainly, it was after the War (i.e., the Civil War) that we find them printed in many states of the union,” writes Eleanor Parker Brown in the Introduction to Culinary Americana,

“A survey of 200 cookbooks of our own collection, published at various times during this last century in Massachusetts showed that they came from seventy-four different cities and villages. In the case of many of the smaller places, these titles constitute the only books ever printed in these localities, which makes them important landmarks in the history of bookmaking in the state.
The regional cookbooks are a treasure trove of original recipes, as well as a record of old ‘receipts,’ reflecting the nationality background of the settlers of the community. Thus you will expect, and find, German foods in the old books of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Scandinavian receipts in the pamphlets of the Midwest, and Spanish dishes in the booklets published in the southwest…the little books, some in the handwriting of the contributor, often with signed recipes, gives us a glimpse of the gallant women who proudly cooked these meals and generously gave up their secrets ‘for the benefit of…others…”

Eleanor Parker Brown also shares with us, in the introduction, “Bob Brown first got together a cookbook collection for reference when he began to write about cooking. He had 1500 volumes which were purchased promptly by a grocery chain store as nucleus for their research library. It was then necessary for him to start a new collection. This was the origin of an interest in cookery books which lasted, and grew, to the end of this life. Bob saw cook books as social and cultural history in America; particularly, those regional books which were so close to the heart of the country…”

Eleanor says that after Bob’s sudden death, she continued work o this bibliography.” Culinary Americana includes listings of all the regional cookbooks we could either locate or obtain information about. It runs the gamut from ‘fifteen cent dinners for families of six’ to the extravagant and elaborate collations of Oscar of the Waldorf….”

“Culinary Americana” is the kind of book that cookbook collectors simply drool over.

As an aside, I find it curious that the Browns flooded the cookbook market within the span of a few years; from “The Wine Cookbook”, published in 1934, to “Look Before You Cook” published in 1941, the Browns published eleven cookbooks. Then they appear to have gone on hiatus until 10,000 snacks was published in 1948. However, given the extent of their travels and living in countries all over the world – it crossed my mind that perhaps all of these cookbooks were “in the works” while they lived abroad—and perhaps came home to get their cookbooks published.

I’m speculating, of course. The first time I wrote about the Browns (for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1994) – information was scarce. Almost everything I wrote about was gleaned from the books or their dust jackets. Today, thanks to the internet, there is more biographical information available but not enough to satisfy my greedy soul. Of all the authors I have collected in the past 45 years, those by The Browns remain my all time favorites. I was stunned to discover Bob Brown had a bookstore and that he wrote over a thousand short stories and 30 full length books.

Yowza! – this trio did it all.

Another update! Some months ago I was stunned to receive a message on my blog from Rory Brown—Bob Brown was his great grandfather; Cora Brown was his great-great-grandmother. It isn’t the first time (and hopefully won’t be the last) that a descendant of someone I have written about on Sandychatter has written to me. It was with Rory’s assistance that I located a copy of the Browns’ Vegetable Cookbook. I’m not sure why this particular cookbook has been so elusive—possibly because it was never reprinted like some of the other cookbooks have been? The Brown descendants have mentioned the possibility of having the books reprinted—wouldn’t that be nice?

Meantime, here’s a bit to chew on from The Vegetable Cookbook – it starts out “Speaking of Spinach” and introduces us to Cora’s great-granddaughter, Sylvie—then age 4—at a Thanksgiving dinner of the whole Brown family “Last Thanksgiving” which I assume to have taken place in 1938, since the book was published in 1939. The Browns noted that “She possessed herself in patience until the napkin was knotted in place and the plate set before her. Surveying the many good things, she made a quick choice, jabbed her fork into the beans with a forthright gesture, appraised the mouthful, wiped a buttery trickle from her chin, beamed around at everybody and gave a little squeal of delight—‘Oh, I just love string beans, don’t you, Bob?’” and the authors take it from there.
Well, I love Spinach and home-grown cooked green beans (aka string beans) and the Browns write that “Greens are only an appetizing nibble at our subject, for in Florida alone, the State Department of Agriculture lists more than sixty local favorites” which they go on to list. The Browns stated they had, for years, been ardent readers of seed catalogs and had gardens of their own whenever they had the chance. It was from growing their own that they had the idea of writing The Vegetable Cook Book – from Trowel to Table”. They wrote of being fed up with “woody turnips, wilted spinach, limp beans and peas that would give you some bruises on the gullet, frayed heads of cauliflower, broccoli and iceberg lettuce past their prime, as well as those terrible lopsided little scallions that are sold for spring onions by grocers nowadays, we got a head start with a compost bed and survey of half a hundred catalogs…”

I wonder what the Browns would think if they could observe the produce department in many supermarkets more than seventy years later—the array is, admittedly, dazzling—but I find too often that whatever I buy fresh needs to be used almost immediately. A few days later, most lettuce and other greens has to be thrown out.
But returning to The Vegetable Cook Book – I was entertained (and reminded of personal experiences) as they wrote of their first vegetable gardens, forgetting what was planted where when the little sticks identifying various veggies would be lost or blown away and other hit-or-miss experiences…everyone who has had similar experiences will relate. For almost 25 years, I had a house-mate also named Bob, who tended our compost and planted the veggie gardens at our home in the San Fernando Valley, until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008 and discovered the need to re-learn gardening in the desert.

But getting back to my favorite cookbook authors–following their introduction and induction into vegetable gardening, the Browns move forward, alphabetically from Artichokes and Asparagus to Avocados (with a side-trip into the variables of vegetables that are a fruit, or fruits that are a vegetable, such as tomatoes and avocados). There are chapters on cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and chives, Kohlrabi and parsley, parsnips, peas – and many more…all the way down to Yams. I suspect that possibly one reason why The Vegetable Cook Book is so difficult to find is that it’s a dictionary of sorts, listing all the vegetables available to the Browns—with ways to cook them—maybe it belongs with my reference books rather than the cookbooks!

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

—Sandra Lee Smith

REMEMBERING HENRI CHARPENTIER

Posted on January 1, 2011 | 1 Comment | Edit

It was my original intention, early in the last decade, to write reviews about some of my favorite–but perhaps overlooked and forgotten–cookbook authors. This project was waylaid when the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, for which I wrote articles throughout the 1990s, folded. It was a great forum for the kind of writing I enjoy doing most.

But fast forward a decade and I find myself with a blog and the ability to write and share with you just about anything that is on my mind. I hope you will enjoy reading about Henri Charpentier! – sls **

It was while reading through Lee Edwards Benning’s book, “THE COOK’S TALES” for something else entirely that I discovered S is for Suzette – as in Crepes Suzette. This reminded me that I have a copy of “THE HENRI CHARPENTIER COOKBOOK” (purchased at a used bookstore for $15.00), and had always planned to write something about him.

It has always been my belief that Henri Charpentier created Crepes Suzette. Benning casts a shadow of doubt on this belief in her book “THE COOK’S TALES”.

Henri Charpentier (1880-1961) had a most intriguing, colorful career which began when, at the age of ten years, he served as a page boy on the Riviera. He served his apprenticeship as a Master Chef in the major dining capitals of Europe: HOTEL DE PARIS in Monte Carlo, MAXIMS and TOUR D’ARGENT in Paris, THE CAFÉ ROYALE and SAVOY in London, as well as other famous hotels in Moscow, Munich and Rome. Charpentier was a student of Escoffier, Jean Camous and Cesar Ritz.

Among Charpentier’s European patrons and friends were Queen Victoria, stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, and King Edward VII, for whom, Charpentier claimed, he created Crepes Suzette.
“Adventurous and ambitious,” state the publishers of “THE HENRI CHARPENTIER COOKBOOK, “Henri came to America in the early 1900s, with his new bride. He worked in the dining rooms of New York’s most distinguished hotels until 1906 when he opened THE ORIGINAL HENRI RESTAURANT in his home in the rural village of Lynbrook, Long Island. The small dining room had only two tables. Felomena, his wife, was in charge, while Henri continued to work in the city during the day to finance the new undertaking…”

During its first year, THE ORIGINAL HENRI RESTAURANT took in only $500 but its owners were not discouraged. The turning point came when J.P. Morgan, one of the most notable financial figures of the time, discovered the little dining place in the country, rumored to serve finer cuisine than in New York City.

HENRI’S grew and prospered until it occupied a rambling mansion on many acres, with sunken gardens and promenades. Over the next 25 years, it attracted the wealthiest and most notable world celebrities.

Among the famous who made the 45 minute trip from New York City were Rudyard Kipling, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Diamond Jim Brady who, wearing $500,000 worth of precious gems and accompanied by two bodyguards, often paid dinner checks totaling $500.00, adding a $100 tip for the waiter.
HENRI’S restaurant continued to flourish until the 18th Amendment to the Constitution introduced prohibition to this country.

“In April 1930,” say the publishers, “12 government agents swooped down on the Mecca of ultra-society smashing hundreds of bottles on the premises and confiscating approximately $100,000 worth of rare wines and champagnes.”

And, although the judge refused to close Henri’s because it was too respectable, the further use of brandy or liquor in food was strictly forbidden. Since preparation of most dishes thus became a felony, prohibition put an end to the type of cuisine for which THE ORIGINAL HENRI’S was famous. It was also the beginning of the restaurant’s decline.

The once famous restaurant became almost deserted but remained open. Henri opened an outdoor dance floor and offered a depression-price dinner for $1.50 and a printed menu for the first time.
A few years later, the French government and John D. Rockefeller approached Henri to open the MAISON FRANCAISE in brand-new Rockefeller Center; however, despite an avalanche of publicity and critical acclaim, Henri experienced financial difficulties from the very beginning. An artist rather than a businessman, he failed to realize that the new café was too small for the rent he paid.

It was also the height of the depression and Henri refused to compromise his standards. In April 1935, the doors of the Maison Francaise closed and Henri was evicted for non-payment of $12,000 in back rent.

Throughout the next three years, Henri struggled to rebuild THE ORIGINAL HENRI’S which he and his wife had managed to hold onto. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to sell some of his remaining real estate to pay the back taxes on the Lynbrook property, the site of THE ORIGINAL HENRI’S. (Henri had been offered $375,000 for the 20 acres of land in 1926 but was unable to find a buyer in 1938 for $10,000. The property was eventually confiscated and razed.
Tired of New York, Henri moved to Chicago where he operated a restaurant, the Cafe de Paris, for a while before moving to Los Angeles, where, after World War II, Henri opened a new Henri’s on Sunset Strip. It was described as an artistic triumph but once again, restaurant economics were severe and Henri was not geared to economizing.

However, for the last 15 years of his life, Henri presided over the type of restaurant he loved most, in Redondo Beach (California). The restaurant served a maximum of 16 guests every night, allowing him to supervise the preparation of each dish. There he served a different kind of royalty that included movie stars such as Bing Crosby and John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, and Ethel Barrymore. It was so popular that reservations had to be made four years in advance!

Henri’s cookbook was originally privately printed in 1945 and distributed to a select circle of friends. The book’s original title was “FOOD AND FINESSE – THE BRIDE’S BIBLE” and was dedicated to “the queen of the throne – the charming American woman.” The book was designed to serve two (the bride and the groom) and, the publishers note, unlike most master chef’s, Henri had the ability to write his recipes in a simple, concise fashion. Each recipe was his own creation.

Henri Charpentier’s cookbook is also a book of memoirs, which makes fascinating reading. Perhaps the most amusing is his story “A English Plum Pudding in Contes” when his foster brother, Jean Camous, who was at that time a protégé of Escoffier, sent a plum pudding to the French village where Henri was living with his foster family. No one in the village had any idea what a plum pudding was or how it was to be used. Henri embarks on telling the story of the arrival of the plum pudding, which is truly hilarious.

He also tells the story of how he met Queen Victoria and many other famous people, for whom he created many of his specialty dishes – including the famous Crepes Suzette.

According to Henri, Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Queen Victoria, came often to the Café d Paris in Monte Carlo where, in 1895, Henri—at the age of fifteen—was striving to hold his position as a kind of assistant waiter against the growing hostility of the maitre d’. “Day after day,” Henri recalls, “the Prince came to the Café for his luncheon.” Henri says that he often helped serve the Prince until one day through a series of fortunate circumstances, it fell to Henri’s lot to wait upon the Prince and his party.

He recalled that in the party were eight gentlemen and one little girl, the daughter of one of the gentlemen. Henri writes the following, “I had often experimented with what are called French pancakes, and I had watched Maman Camous make them with one egg and much flour. She prepared thin strips of lemon and orange peel with sugar syrup and then cooked the cake and syrup together. As a commis des rangs, who had his share of confidence, I believed I could improve on that. I was not hampered by the poverty of Contes [his hometown] and I had the advantage of my training under Jean Camous [Henri’s foster brother].
The pancakes had to be cooked twice, and since the first was a smoky operation it was performed in the kitchen. But the rest of the process occurred in the dining room right where a prince or princess might watch how it was done. I stood in front of a chafing dish making the sauce. Everything was going along all right when suddenly the cordials caught fire! My heart leaped with the flames…” Henri thought he was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could he begin all over?
He tasted it and thought, “This is the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I’ve ever tasted.” Charpentier believed that the accident, which caused the cordials to flame, was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste. Henri plunged his supply of folded pancakes into the boiling sauce. “I submerged them,” he recalled, “I turned them deftly, and, again inspired, I added two more ponies of a previously prepared blend of equal parts of maraschino, curacao and kirshwasser. My wide pan was alive once more with blue and orange flame and as the colors died from the pan I looked up to see the Prince of Wales watching me.

That day he was dressed all in gray with a cravat in light blue. There was a carnation in his button hole. His gray beard was faultless. His chin went up and his nostrils inhaled. I thought then, and I think now, he was the world’s most perfect gentleman. He ate the pancakes with a fork but used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup….”

The Prince of Wales asked Henri the name of the dish he had just eaten, to which Henri replied that it was to be called Crepes Princesse. The Prince recognized it as a compliment but protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. “She was alert,” writes Henri, “and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with both hands she made him a curtsey….”

The Prince then asked Henri to change the name from Crepes Princesse to Crepes Suzette. The next day, Henri received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a Panama hat and a cane. “After that,” says Henri, “how could the maitre d’ possibly dismiss the fifteen year old Henri?”

Now, fast-forward to 1992 and Lee Edwards Benning’s research for “THE COOK’S TALE” and the chapter, “S is for Suzette”. Benning considers Crepes Suzette to be the cookdom’s version of the whodunit. She notes the clues as to who inspired it and does relate the story Henri told in the original “FOOD AND FINESSE, THE BRIDE’S BIBLE” which ultimately became the foundation for Price/Stern/Sloan’s “THE HENRI CHARPENTIER COOKBOOK”.
However, Benning notes that the accounts of how the dish originated are contradictory.

“Did it,” asks Benning, “as an occasional dish will do, leap to life like a gastronomic Minerva, springing fully armed and with a tremendous battle cry from the brain of a single creator? Did it evolve slowly as successive cooks added to it and improved it? Was it an accident, the result of a cook’s mistake? Could it have resulted from spontaneously combusting in several places at once—a case of great minds thinking alike?” Benning suggests we judge for ourselves. Henri’s story, as it was told, stood until his death in 1961.

“Then,” says Benning, “brave naysayers came forward to question not only Charpentier’s veracity but his expertise in the kitchen. They laughed at the thought that a fifteen-year old assistant waiter had access to, much less conversation with, a prince. That the maitre d’hôte would have allowed this callow youth near the person of the prince with his chafing dish. That the chef de cuisine would have even allowed the lad into our out of his kitchen…”

“Version two,” says Benning, “comes from Joseph Donon—one of the last private chefs in America—who wrote in FRANCE-AMERICAN that, among others, the crepes were invented by another chef, Monsieur Joseph, for a German actress, Suzanne ‘Suzette’ Reichenburg. According to Donon, Monsieur Joseph first made the crepes in 1889 while working at the restaurant Paillard, at the rue de la Chaussee-d’Antin and the boulevard des Italiens….” At this time, the pancakes were spread with an orange-sugar-butter sauce and remained nameless. “When Monsieur Joseph opened his own restaurant, the Marivaux, he continued to make the crepes…”

Apparently, in 1897, a play opened in which a character, a maid called Suzette, was to serve the principals some pancakes. These were supplied nightly by Monsieur Joseph from his restaurant. And so the restaurant staff would know for whom the pancakes were intended, they were called simply pancakes for Suzette or crepes Suzette. Since eating cold pancakes isn’t especially appetizing, just before they were rushed over to the theater every night, Monsieur Joseph dipped them into a sizzling mixture of butter, sugar and orange juice. No liqueurs, no alcohol, no flames.

From yet another source we have version #3. Louis P. De Gouy was a contemporary of Charpentier. De Gouy had worked at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo too—but as a chef. He also worked, as had Charpentier, at the Waldorf-Astoria here in America. According to De Gouy, crepes Suzette originally appeared in a cookbook published in 1674. According to De Gouy, Jean Reboux is credited with creating the crepes, which were served with afternoon tea to Louis XV and fellow huntsmen in the forest of Fontainebleau by order of Princesse (Suzette) de Carignan, who was infatuated with the king.

“Was she,” asks Benning, “the source of both of Charpentier’s names: first crepes princesse and then crepes Suzette?”

Version four, says Benning, “is presented by still another authority, Robert Courtine, alias Savarin. Savarin claims that all the previous claims are incorrect. He says that true crepes Suzette were made with tangerines…”

“Alas,” laments Benning, “tangerines, also known as mandarin oranges, were not introduced from China until the nineteenth century, so they could not have been used for crepes princesse. Further, the tangerine yields much less oil than any other orange, changing the recipe dramatically…..”

So much for version four.

It seems possible—perhaps logical—that Henri Charpentier didn’t really create Crepes Suzette when he was a fifteen-year-old waiter at a famous Monte Carlo restaurant. Undoubtedly, however, he managed to make them famous throughout his spectacular career. It was a good story, though and Henri Charpentier’s Cookbook provides entertaining recollections, true or otherwise, along with a collection of recipes. One also can’t help but wonder why those naysayers didn’t come forward until after Charpentier’s death to dispute the authenticity of his recipe.

In any event, no one disputed that Crepes Suzette makes for good eating.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

The Henri Charpentier Cookbook was originally published in 1945 as “FOOD AND FINESSE, THE BRIDE’S BIBLE.” It was republished in 1970 by Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers under the title “THE HENRI CHARPENTIER COOKBOOK”.

Imagine my surprise when I entered Henri Charpentier’s name onto my favorite information website, Google.com, and discovered that Modern Library Food series has re-published Henri’s book in 2001 with a new introduction by Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl. The new name of the book is “LIFE A LA HENRI” and it should be available to you through most of your bookstore resources.

–Sandra Lee Smith

MARION CUNNINGHAM, COOKBOOK AUTHOR

I first learned the sad news from one of my blog subscribers, who wrote asking had I heard? And would I be writing something about Marion Cunningham? “No, I hadn’t heard,” I responded and added “Good idea to write something about her –let me see how many of her cookbooks are on my shelves…”

I didn’t have her books shelved together with favorite authors but rather – filed according to content. I knew, for instance, that The Breakfast Book was in the garage library with other breakfast/brunch cookbooks. I knew LOST RECIPES and THE SUPPER BOOK were on a shelf in my bedroom, along with other comfort food and often thumbed-through cookbooks. All of the Fannie Farmer cookbooks in my possession are on a shelf in the garage library. Then I realized I didn’t have ALL of her books and remedied this by placing an order with Alibris.com. That being said, I find I have eight different editions of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, neither of which was #12 or #13, the two that Marion worked on. I’ve ordered one of these from Alibris.com. (Kind of reminded me of all the work I have put in, back in the day, collecting the Congressional Club cookbooks.)

Marion Cunningham passed away Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at the John Muir Medical Center in Northern California, where she had been admitted on Tuesday with respiratory problems. Family friend, John Carroll, confirmed her death. Marion had been living at an assisted-care home in Walnut Creek, the small San Francisco Bay Area city where she had raised her family. She was 90 years old. I was shocked to learn she had Alzheimer’s disease, which took my own mother’s life in September, 2000.
**
Marion Enwright was born in Los Angeles on February 11, 1922, to Joseph and Maryann (Spelta) Enright. She grew up as a Southern California beach girl, tall, blonde, and elegant and graduated from high school in Los Angeles. (In her own words she admitted, “I barely made it out of high school. I never paid attention to my teachers…” That comment is debatable, considering what she produced, once she started writing.)

In one of the columns she wrote for the L.A. Times that can still be found in the Times archives, she wrote for the food section about her southern California childhood: “In the small foothill town of La Crescenta where I grew up,” she wrote, “We spent long summer evenings, after breathlessly hot days, swinging in the hammock…Around 8 each evening, it seemed that everyone in town walked down to Watson’s drugstore to buy a quart of ice cream..(our neighbors) the Merricks made root beer with great success except for the first summer when they couldn’t afford a bottle-capper. They made their first batch corked it and put it in the attic to ferment. In a day or two, all the corks flew out of the bottles, making a colossal mess.”

I laughed over a comment of Marion’s about her mother’s cooking: “My mother followed the government pamphlets on nutrition that she sent away for, and paid no attention to taste” – I have written on my blog a number of times about my own mother’s terrible cooking. We were kindred spirits in more ways than one.
In 1942 Marion married Robert Cunningham, a medical malpractice lawyer, whom she had known since kindergarten. He was a lawyer with a taste for canned pork and beans and well-done red meat. She once summed up his culinary range this way: “He doesn’t like homemade bread and he doesn’t like vegetables. The only green thing he says he likes is money.” (I am struck by the similarities between Marion’s marriage and my own, except mine finally ended in divorce in 1986.)

The newly-wed Cunninghams moved to San Diego, where he was serving in the Marines. During WW2, a time when men were in short supply for many civilian jobs, Marion worked in a gas station for a while. “I always used to think I would own my own station,” she said in a 1991 interview with the New York Times. “I know more than most women about cars.”

“During the five years we lived in Laguna,” she wrote in an article about home entertaining for The Times in 1990, “every friend we knew from our school days arrived to visit (and often to stay). In order to feed this steady stream, I made casseroles, stews, soups and big hearty salads with thick creamy dressings. All good to eat and cheap to make. (Another parallel to my own life and marriage where I usually had a steady stream of visitors—either friends of my four sons or my husband. I served dinner at 6 pm every night and everyone knew if they showed up they would be fed.)

Marion and Robert eventually settled in Walnut Creek, outside Oakland, in northern California. Robert Cunningham died in 1987 from lung cancer.

Marion spent the first half of her adult life raising her children, Mark and Catherine, who survive her, and tending to the family’s ranch home in Walnut Creek. And for much of that time she struggled with agoraphobia, a fear of open and public places. It was so intense at times that she could barely cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. She had also developed a problem with alcohol.

In 1972, Marion, at age 50, wanted to go to Oregon to attend cooking classes led by famous food writer/cookbook author James Beard. She stopped drinking, cold-turkey, and faced her phobias. To prepare for the trip she bought three airline tickets to Los Angeles and took two friends to sit on either side of her. They had lunch and flew back. She overcame her fears and attended the class. It was her first experience traveling out of the State of California. Talk about a life-changing experience!

James Beard took to the tall, blue-eyed homemaker (perhaps in much the same way that he took to Helen Evans Brown, another California cookbook author) and for the next 11 years Marion was his assistant, helping him establish cooking classes in the Bay Area.

The job gave her a ringside seat to a period in American cooking when regional food, organic produce and a new way of cooking and eating were just becoming part of the culinary dialogue.
That trip, which Mrs. Cunningham said was the first time she felt a sense of power and hope in many years, was the beginning of a journey that would change not only her life but the Bay Area culinary community.

Author/editor Ruth Reichl described the relationship between Beard and Cunningham as “One of the great odd marriages in this food world. Cunningham took care of Beard and he took care of her. Their relationship was so sweet and so protective. It really was a kind of mutual support thing.”

Marion’s association with Beard also gave her the big break of her career, in the late 1970s when he passed her name to Judith Jones, a well-known New York culinary editor, who was looking for someone to rewrite The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. (The original Boston Cooking School cookbook, published in 1896 had undergone a number of revisions since Fannie first wrote her cookbook. The update Marion would write was the 12th revision. She would also do a 13th revision. Revision #11 was done by Wilma Lord Perkins).
“Marion Cunningham epitomized good American food,” Judith Jones, who became her longtime editor at Knopf, said in a statement Wednesday. “She was someone who had an ability to take a dish, savor it in her mouth and give it new life. At a time when Americans were embracing all kinds of foreign cuisine, Marion Cunningham’s love and respect for American food helped ‘The Fannie Farmer Cookbook’ once again earn a place in kitchens across America.”

“It was really a gift out of the blue,” Cunningham said. The only problem was, she didn’t think she had a bit of skill. Oh, she could cook. Cooking had always been something that comforted her. She learned it early on, first watching her father and Italian immigrant mother and grandmother struggle to feed a family during the depression, later trying to make a home from the small salary her Marine Corps husband brought in , and finally, as a mother of two. Initially, she balked saying “I barely made it out of high school. I never paid attention to my teachers. I don’t know where to put periods or commas. How can I do a book?”

But she did, and the 12th revision of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, one of the best selling cookbooks in America, was published in 1979. Cunningham was 57.

Former Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl later mused that Mrs. Cunningham had completely reinvented herself at midlife and never thought it even remotely remarkable. Reichl also commented that not only did Cunningham know everyone and everything, she was the person you called when you had a triumph or when things weren’t going so well.
The revision of the Fannie Farmer cookbook led to seven more cookbooks; her own television show, Cunningham & Company, which ran for more than 70 episodes, sometimes on the Food Network; and a longstanding cooking column for the Chronicle.

In 1989 Cunningham and a friend started the Baker’s Dozen, an informal group of San Francisco bakers. It grew to more than 200 members and led to another cookbook, The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, written/edited by Rick Rodgers.

In 1993, Marion received the Grand Dame award from Les Dames d’Escoffier “in recognition and appreciation of her extraordinary achievement and contribution to the culinary arts.” In 1994, she was named Scholar-in-Residence by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

In 1999, Marion published a book titled Learning to Cook with Marion (Alfred A. Knoof. Inc.), written for adults who know nothing about home cooking, but would like to learn.

Michael Bauer, the Executive food editor of the San Francisco Chronicle said that more than anyone else, Marion Cunningham gave legitimacy to home cooking. She took what many people would say was housewife food and really gave it respect by force of her own personality.”

Cunningham’s most enduring trait may have been her ability to make even novice cooks feel as if they could accomplish something in the kitchen.

Indeed, she took many of them under her wing and drew from them for her popular book “Learning to Cook”.” She made it her life’s work to champion home cooking and preserve the family supper table. It was a theme she focused on in the preface to “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook”, the classic American volume that she was hired to revise in the late 1970s. Like many others, Ruth Reichl, the author and former restaurant critic for The New York Times (and editor of Gourmet magazine before it folded in 2009) came to regard Cunningham as a mother figure.
She was the glue that held the nascent food movement together, Reichl said, the touchstone, the person you checked in with to find out who was doing what all over the country.”
Ruth Reichl also wrote, in The Times in 1992, when she was the newspaper’s food editor “If Beard was the father of American cooking, Cunningham became its mother.”

Marion loved to go to the supermarket and look into the shopping carts of total strangers, whom she would then interview about their cooking skills. She made it her life’s work to champion home cooking and preserve the family supper table.

All traits I can readily identify with; I love going into supermarkets in other cities, just to see what they have on their shelves that I don’t find on the shelves in MY supermarkets. (I have been known to buy condiments, like unusual mustards, in stores in Ohio or Florida, to bring home for us to try). I also collect recipe cards (given away free in supermarkets) to exchange with some of my penpals). And I grew up in a home where dinner was on the table at 6 pm—every night. Consequently, throughout the years of raising my sons, they had a home cooked meal every night. We also had unexpected visitors for dinner at night, friends my sons or husband brought home—everyone knew that I always cooked dinner—so I made a lot.

Marion, I think, would have approved of my home cooking. She wrote that “too many families seldom sit down together; it’s gobble and go”. In an interview in 2002 she said “No one is cooking at home anymore, so we are losing all the wonderful lessons we learn at the dinner table…” She became a champion for family meals.
Ms. Cunningham bought a Jaguar with her first royalty check from “THE BREAKFAST BOOK”; the Jaguar became identified with her and she would drive it to a different Bay Area restaurant almost every night, sometimes logging 2,500 miles a month.

Along the way, Marion collected a passel of friends who changed how America cooked and ate, including her close friend Chuck Williams, whose kitchenware company, Williams-Sonoma, was just getting started.

One of the people she discovered was a young Alice Waters, who co-founded Chez Panisse in 1971 with film producer Paul Aratow. Alice was cooking organic and local food at her little restaurant in Berkeley California. Marion took James Beard to the restaurant in 1974 and he put it on the culinary map, marking the beginnings of California cuisine and the modern organic movement.

“She was always my biggest cheerleader,” Ms. Waters once said in an interview. “I just can see her even now with her coffee and coffeecake. That’s kind of where she liked to live.”

Waters also said “I always felt like Marion was a best friend of mine, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Her empathy, charm and humor inspired deep friendships; she was always ready to listen if one needed to talk—one could call her day or night. It’s true we didn’t agree on iceberg lettuce but we did agree on a few other things—including the uselessness of the microwave. Marion never thought cooking was a lofty activity; she was a home cook, someone who loved and knew the importance of eating together at the table with family and friends.”

Cunningham, like her good friend Alice Waters and Julia Child, was a celebrity chef long before it was a household term. In addition to her cookbooks, she wrote articles for Bon appétit and Gourmet magazines, as well as the Contra Costa Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times.

(On reflection, I decided that my earliest knowledge about Marion Cunningham stemmed from recipes/articles published in the Los Angeles Times over the years. I collected the S.O.S. food column recipes for several decades, until the newspaper changed the format and the column no longer appealed to me).

Russ Parsons, who writes a food column in the Los Angeles Times wrote a tribute to Marion, explaining that he worked with her for several years before he actually met her. In the 1990s he was one of her editors—she had a column in the L.A. Times called The Home Cook—but their conversations were mostly over the telephone since she lived in the Bay Area and he in southern California.
Eventually, he writes, on a trip to San Francisco and the two finally met in person. Parsons writes, “Up pulled a long gold Jaguar, and out of it climbed one of the most stylish, older women I’d ever seen. Not fashionable—nothing flashy—but tall and slim and dressed just so, her silver hair tied close. There was certainly nothing old-fashioned or matronly about her.”
“We walked into the restaurant”, Parsons continued “where Marion greeted half of the wait staff and all of the chefs by name. That was Marion Cunningham, one part America’s grandma, one part culinary godfather…”
He goes on to comment that it might seem odd that she had two sides, the dining sophisticate and the cooking traditionalist, who could coexist so seamlessly, but they did. “American home cooking had no fiercer advocate than Cunningham. She loved iceberg lettuce beyond all reason. A good bowl of vegetable soup could send her into rhapsodies. Sure, she might dine out every night in some of the most glamorous restaurants in the world, but she also knew the value of a well-prepared biscuit…” (The title of Parsons’ tribute to Marion was titled “AN APPRECIATION: MARION CUNNINGHAM WAS FANNIE FARMER, BUT WITH A DELICIOUS FLAIR” and appeared in the July 14, 2012 edition of the L.A. Times)
The James Beard Foundation provided a profile of Marion Cunningham that everyone will read and “wish they were there” This was written when Marion was 81 years old and focused on Marion in her home.

“Have you ever had a waffle in Marion Cunningham’s kitchen? Some of the biggest names in food have, driving through the hills east of San Francisco to the low-slung house on an acre of land where Cunningham has lived for 42 years. They sit at her kitchen table, near a wall of snapshots that tell the story of a culinary life: there’s Ruth Reichl holding a baby, a boyishly young Chuck Williams, Edna Lewis sitting in the sun, MFK and Julia, and James Beard goofing off as a teenager.

People journey to Cunningham’s house to eat pepper bacon, gossip, and watch one of America’s most famous cooks pour thin, yeast-leavened batter into a pair of waffle irons. She uses an old recipe*, one she discovered when she first revised the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook.”

Going to Marion’s for Waffles has become almost a badge of honor for some of the best professional chefs and food writers in the country. But for Cunningham, the informal gatherings are simply an extension of what she has been preaching for much of her cooking career: sharing simple, delicious food around a family table is the most important thing in life.

She fills her table with neighbors, old friends, and young people who are hungry to learn to cook. It is not a stretch to imagine that James Beard, with whom Cunningham worked side by side for 11 years and who ate those waffles, would be pleased…”

“Cunningham, who keeps current on food trends by driving into San Francisco five nights a week, has a natural media presence. She had her own television show for a time, and shows up regularly in food articles and at seminars. She goes to the local supermarket every day just to see how people are shopping. Through classes and books like “COOKING WITH CHILDREN” and “LEARNING TO COOK WITH MARION CUNNINGHAM,” she has introduced countless people to the kitchen with her patient and folksy, but determined, approach.
Cunningham viewed the dinner table as the modern tribal fire—the place where stories are shared, families are created, and culture is passed on. And she’s fought to protect it as fewer and fewer families eat together.

‘Today, strangers cook most of the food we eat’ she said. ‘If you stop to think about it, people are living like they are in motels. They get fast food, take it home and turn on the TV. We need to sit, facing people, with great regularity, so we are making an exchange and are civilized. We learn such simple, basic life lessons at the dinner table. If you’re handed a platter and take everything off, you are not leaving anything for others.’…”

“She has been one of the hearts of this whole food revolution,” says Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl who in her memoir, ‘TENDER AT THE BONE’ writes lovingly about how Cunningham served as both a personal and professional guide when Reichl was a new food writer. “She’s like the den mother of the food movement. She’s the way we all keep connected to each other.” [All of the above from the Beard Foundation was written 9 years ago, when Cunningham was a mere 81 years old—there is a great deal more to the article which a penpal found for me on the Internet].

Michael Bauer, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Marion also captured friends with her self-effacing ways and her razor-sharp analysis that was always on point but never mean-spirited. She always started her criticisms with, “Well, dear, don’t you think …”

She claimed to have barely finished high school. Yet when she thought her equally gifted lawyer husband was lauding his intelligence over her, she secretly took the Mensa test and qualified for membership. She never joined because she had proved her point.

That same titanium spirit propelled her through her last work, when the first hints of disease started to appear. It was a challenge, but she wanted to record recipes that she felt were falling into oblivion, like cream of celery soup, Country Captain and Lazy Daisy cake. (All of which did find their way into LOST RECIPES).

It was shortly after the book (LOST RECIPES) was published in 2003 that she received the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. After a long, heartfelt standing ovation, she told the adoring crowd of the country’s top chefs and cookbook authors that if her life ended now she would be happy.

Soon after, the Alzheimer’s fog began to descend more rapidly. She covered up her momentary forgetfulness by saying “my files are full” when she showed up late for a dinner reservation or called in a panic because she went to the wrong restaurant. Her decline, until the last five years or so when she was isolated in a residential care facility, was as elegant as her ascent.

When she gave up driving, she continued to invite friends to her home in Walnut Creek. After she was forced to leave her home and could no longer cook, she dreamed of her favorite pastimes. During sleep she would make the motion of stirring a pot, as if teaching a cooking class; at other times, she appeared to be talking on the telephone.

We tend to immortalize those who pass on and gloss over their less-attractive quirks, but Marion Cunningham was a special person. She had a temper, and if you were the rare person who ended up on her bad side, everyone would know it. But for the most part, her quick sense of humor and caring nature drew her to the top minds in the food world…”

Since I can’t finish this post without a recipe or two of Marion Cunningham’s, I chose Raised Raffles which appears in The Fannie Farmer Cook Book published in 1896 but was reprinted – at least – in the 1922 edition of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. It is also in the Eleventh Edition of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, published in 1965.

The recipe for Raised Waffles was also contributed by Marion in the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, for which she was a contributor in1997, as well as The Breakfast Book and Lost Recipes. In Lost Recipes, Marion notes “This recipe comes from the 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbooks. The Raised Waffle recipe alone could have sold a million copies. Another food writer commented “Being asked to come over for waffles and bacon at Marion Cunningham’s Walnut Creek ranch house was akin to winning a James Beard award. No invitation was as coveted in the food world since MFK Fisher, who died in 1992, would hold court in her Glen Ellen home”.

*Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles
Serves 8
The batter is prepared the night before, so all you have to do the next morning is cook them. Serve them hot with room temperature butter and warmed maple syrup. A note of warning: These do not bake up well in a Belgian waffle iron.
• 1/2 cup warm water
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 2 cups milk, warmed
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions: Use a large mixing bowl – the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast dissolves. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast and beat until smooth and blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Cook on a very hot waffle iron (use about 1/3 cup batter per grid). Bake until the waffles are golden and crisp to the touch.
Note: If there is any leftover batter, store in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Per waffle: 265 calories, 7 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat (9 g saturated), 92 mg cholesterol, 421 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Sandy’s cooknote: If you keep dry yeast in your pantry (or refrigerator), this recipe is one for which you would most likely have all the ingredients on hand and could prepare, in part, the night before. Waffles and pancakes were two of Bob’s favorite foods so I made them frequently. I think it was his favorite meal.
**I could read Marion’s books and type up her recipes for hours on end; it’s like sitting in the kitchen of a good friend and being allowed to copy some of her recipes (which I have been known to do in the homes of girlfriends) –I Just couldn’t resist sharing one more recipe of Marion’s that provides a bit more insight to the woman—and might be the coffee cake her friend Alice Waters has referred to:

Marion Cunningham’s Coffee Cake
Yield: Makes one 10-inch tube cake

Ingredients
• 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sour cream
• 5 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make this cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.

Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat for several seconds. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for 2 minutes, or until light and creamy. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir with a fork to blend well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix well.
Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a straw comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes in the pan. Invert onto a rack and cool a little bit before slicing. Serve warm.

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF MARION CUNNINGHAM’S COOKBOOKS:

THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK*, Twelfth edition with Jeri Laber published in 1979

THE FANNIE FARMER BAKING COOKBOOK, Alfred A. Knopf, 1984

THE BREAKFAST BOOK published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1987

THE SUPPER BOOK, Alfred a. Knopf, 1992

COOKING WITH CHILDREN, 1995

THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK, Thirteenth edition, published in September, 1996

LEARNING TO COOK WITH MARION CUNNINGHAM, published 1999

GOOD EATING, a combination of THE BREAKFAST BOOK AND THE SUPPER BOOK, published 1999.

LOST RECIPES, published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2003
Refer also:

COMPLIMENTS OF THE CHEF 100 Great Recipes from the Innovating Restaurants & Cafes of Berkeley, California, foreword by Marion Cunningham, compiled by the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El, with Paul T. Johnston, Aris Books, 1985

THE GREENS COOKBOOK (multiple authors) 1987

CALIFORNIA WALNUTS/TALK OF THE TOWN –published by the California Walnut Marketing Board, foreword by Marion Cunningham, published 1984, contains some of her own recipes.

MAPLE SYRUP COOKBOOK (Author is Ken Haedrich; a charming foreword was written by Marion Cunningham, who was a friend of his for many years), 2001

*Sandy’s Cooknote: Regarding the Fannie Farmer cookbook which has been published in various sizes and, at last count, 13 editions, two of which were edited by Marion Cunningham. There were at least two facsimile editions; one has a green dust jacket and was published by Weathervane Books; the second has a yellow dust jacket with blue print and was also published by Weathervane Books. The only date indicated on both books is 1896, for the original publishing of the cookbook. More recent editions are referred to simply as “the Fannie Farmer cookbook” but the original – and some later editions – carried the title of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer. I had thought to write an article about Fannie Farmer about a year ago but got sidetracked when Bob became so ill. And the lady had a most interesting life—perhaps now I can get the article about Fannie Farmer finished for you!

To summarize—if one can truly summarize a life as challenging and inspiring as Marion Cunningham’s—you only have to Google her life to find story after story, written by those who knew her. (Fannie Farmer, like Marion, had serious obstacles to overcome and I am willing to bet that Marion was inspired by the similarities in their respective lives.

Columnist Russ Parsons also offers a comment that might explain something about Marion Cunningham, in which he states, “Maybe because her own family was somewhat chaotic—she was quite open about having been an alcoholic into her 50s—she would argue all the more passionately the necessity of breaking bread together…”
I wish I could have known Marion Cunningham. I wish I could have sat at her kitchen table and watch her make raised waffles. I am saddened that Alzheimer’s robbed her of the last years of her creative life just as the disease robbed my mother of the last years of her life.

I am also left with many questions about Marion, a woman who championed family meals and family values. In article after article written about her passing, there is only a passing reference to her husband, Robert and two children, Mark and Catherine. Nowhere, in all the articles I have found about her preparing waffles and bacon for friends, have I finally found references to son Mark, or daughter Catherine being present. I finally found an obit reference to Robert Cunningham, stating that he died in 1987 of lung cancer.

Rest in peace, Marion Cunningham.

—Sandra Lee Smith, July, 2012, updated 1-8-16

SOME OF MY FAVORITE COOKBOOK AUTHORS (STARTING WITH ALLEN, HAZELTON & GIVEN)

I’ll let you in on a secret-—before embarking on my latest blog post endeavor, I began doing some Google searches to see what the most favorite cookbooks are nowadays. I wish I hadn’t bothered – most of the lists (ten most favorite, fifty most favorite) of popular cookbooks are ones I have never heard of before. What does this say about my collection of ten thousand plus cookbooks? Are they all defunct? So I returned to my original idea which I shared with one of my subscribers—to rewrite or repost my favorite cookbook author reviews including, where appropriate, responses from my readers which have, at times, led to some surprising and remarkable discoveries.

One of the first cookbook authors I wrote about in my blog (started in 2009) was Ida Bailey Allen. Prior to writing about Ms. Allen on my blog, originally I wrote about her in a newsletter called Cookbook Collectors Exchange (around 2001–now no longer being published, a great loss to all of us)

I LOVE YOU IDA BAILEY ALLEN, WHERE EVER YOU ARE!
Posted on December 25, 2010 | 13 Comments | Edit

In the house at 1618 Sutter Street, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I grew up and learned to cook, there was one cookbook. It was kept in a drawer in the kitchen cupboard, along with ration stamp books (one for each member of the family), scraps of paper and pencils, pieces of chalk, rubber bands, cereal box tops that my brother Jim saved to send away for things like decoder rings, and my mother’s collection of WILSON evaporated milk labels. Here’s an interesting aside about the evaporated milk labels. My mother used the canned milk to make formula for whoever was the baby at the time (in a family the size of ours, somebody was always the baby—after Billy was born, he maintained that status for quite a few years). We poured evaporated milk into coffee and what’s more, we all liked it. Even my parents drank coffee this way, along with sugar. The can of evaporated milk was on the supper table along with everything else.

We probably had it with cereal on occasion, as well—it was either that or Starlac, a powdered milk that when added to water, always had indestructible little lumps that never quite dissolved. Evaporated milk was also a mainstay to making mashed potatoes and creamed peas. (I will readily admit, mashed potatoes and creamed peas made with canned milk still tastes pretty good to me. My sister Barbara agreed).

However, I tried evaporated milk in coffee a few years ago, when I was out of Moca Mix—ew, ew! I can’t believe we actually drank that stuff. We also made an equally disgusting ice cream out of evaporated milk and snow, and it seems to me that I even mixed little portions of it with food coloring to make a kind of “paint” to brush on unbaked cookies.

(Isn’t it interesting that one of the most popular fudge recipes to this day is made with evaporated milk?)

The reason my mother had a collection of WILSON evaporated milk labels is that you could redeem the labels for things, sort of like we once did with Top Value and Blue Chip trading stamps. I remember taking the bundles of evaporated milk labels downtown to cash them in for things – tea towels or potholders, most likely. I suspect that it took several thousand labels for one potholder, but I came from a family where free was desirable no matter what it was. Free was always considered a good thing. (Remind me to tell you sometime about the trouble I got into over “Free with Approvals” stamp ads that used to appear in comic books when I was a child—I had no idea what ‘approvals’ were. I only recognized FREE).

My sister, Barbara, had many memories involving the acquisition of free ‘stuff’ including selling Watkins products to get some free dishes, and the free samples of grape or orange juice you could get at the Orange Bar downtown. According to Barbara, our Grandma Schmidt loved anything that was free (maybe we all got it from her!).

This obsession for free stuff probably also accounts for the collection of recipe booklets I amassed, at a tender age – probably 9 or 10 – because of the ads on the backs of boxes and cans of things like Hershey’s cocoa and Calumet baking powder. Post cards cost a penny each. For ten cents, then, you could get ten post cards. All you had to do was write in and request the free booklet. (I also got a lot of free samples of Cuticura soap this way.)

But getting back to my mother’s kitchen cupboard, and her one and only cookbook, if I might digress for just a moment more—this kitchen cupboard was one of a kind and truly spectacular. It was built into the wall and reached the ceiling. The glass panels in the doors in the upper half of the cupboard were some kind of old patterned glass. My sister thinks the pattern was called stars and says you’d see it a lot in bathroom windows. There is a family story about that kitchen cupboard and me, which resulted in my ending up at the hospital getting stitches. Let me just say this: I was 8 years old and too lazy to move a chair over to the cupboard to open the top doors, which were out of my reach.

(Barbara had to wash dishes, Jim dried them and it was my job to put them away). So one day, I stood on one of the doors over the lower cupboards—I slipped, straddling the cupboard door and ended up in the emergency room.

In any case, my mother had a cookbook and I couldn’t tell you if she or anybody else in the family ever used it. (most of my mother’s cooking was done sans recipes). Now here’s a funny thing—while my sister, Barbara, remembers the kind of glass in the kitchen cupboard and the color of the Wilson labels, she doesn’t remember the Ida Bailey Allen cookbook at all!

However, I do! I learned to cook from this cookbook. It was called “THE SERVICE COOK BOOK BY MRS. IDA BAILEY ALLEN” which, I have learned through research, was originally published in 1933. I think it may have been distributed by Woolworth’s. Along with authoring numerous cookbooks, Ms. Allen hosted a number of radio programs (radio recipe programs were really big in the 30s and 40s).

I was delighted to discover a dozen or so references to Mrs. Allen in Jean Anderson’s “AMERICAN CENTURY COOKBOOK”, published in 1997 and previously reviewed in the CCE.

Ms. Anderson observes that Fannie Farmer died in 1915 and “Ida Bailey Allen, a Chatauqua lecturer, took the stage and throughout the teens, ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s churned out cookbooks, lectured, wrote newspaper and magazine columns, endorsed products and generally kept her name before the public…”

One of Mrs. Allen’s earliest publications appears to have been published in 1917 (Mrs. Allen’s Cook Book). Anderson also credits Mrs. Allen for publishing a very early version of Swiss Steak in her 1917 cookbook which also indicated she was a hearty advocate of casseroles. Anderson also believes that Mrs. Allen may have been the first cookbook author to discuss broccoli in her 1927 cookbook “Vital Vegetables”.

Mary Drake Mcfeely, author of “CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE?” provided me with some additional clues about the life of Ida Bailey Allen. Mcfeely writes, “…she dispensed cooking advice and recipes through her school of cookery in New York, articles in LADIES HOME JOURNAL and GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, a syndicated newspaper column (called, I think, “Let’s Eat”), a radio program, and, in the course of her career, fifty-six published cookbooks…”

“Ida Bailey Allen,” says Mcfeely, advised on everything –nutrition, shopping, pressure-cooker cooking. Her radio and newspaper audience wrote to her asking for help. In her Depression cookbook, ‘Ida Bailey Allen’s Money Saving Cook Book’ she answered some of the questions her readers posed in their letters—questions that reflect the anxiety of the times…”

Ida Bailey Allen, a prominent figure during the 20s and 30s and
40s, was a food authority on hand to provide assistance to homemakers during the terrible times of the Depression.
Allen, like M.F.K. Fisher, also promoted the use of innards.

Writes McFeely, “She (Ida Bailey Allen) advocated the ‘clever use’ of innards—items unfamiliar and therefore unappealing, to middle-class Americans…”. (I find myself wondering if this is why my mother so often prepared kidney stew, liver and onions, brains and sweetbreads (it didn’t do any good to say ew, ew, to my mother. If it was on the dinner table, you had to eat it).

The introduction to Ida Bailey Allen’s Service Cookbook advises that “Millions of radio listeners and followers of women’s pages in newspapers and magazines in all parts of North America have bestowed upon Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen, author of this up-to-the-minute cookbook, the affectionate title of “the home-maker”….nearly two million women who have listened to her coast to coast broadcasts over the Columbia network in the past two years have written to her” (this was written in 1933).

The Introduction to The Service Cook Book also lets us know that Mrs. Allen was at one time Home Economics Editor of “Good Housekeeping”, “Pictorial Review” and “Woman’s World”. She was also president and founder of the National Radio Home-Makers Club, and thousands of radio listeners annually visited her “modern home atop 400 Madison Avenue, New York City,” where they could watch her staff of dietitians in their “never ending task of developing and testing new recipes for cooking”. (Sounds like Mrs. Allen was the Martha Stewart of the 30s and 40s, doesn’t it?”)

Ida Bailey Allen has endeared herself to me forever more with her comments in the preface to one of her books, published in 1924, titled “COOKING MENUS SERVICE”. Writes Ms. Allen “It was a long time ago that I had my first cooking lesson. Playing ‘grown up’—in an old dress from my grandmother’s attic—I went to ‘call’ on a neighbor. ‘Grown-up ladies do useful things,’ she said, “I will teach you to cook.’ Standing on a box in her spotless pantry—for I was only eight—I learned to make gingerbread…”

Some years later, I too, played dress up with my two best friends and when I was about eight years old, I too began to learn to cook. Obviously, Ida Bailey Allen and I are kindred spirits!
I have, in addition to my mother’s very battered and heavily stained Service Cook Book, several other copies of the same Number One edition (I have never seen a Number Two; was #2 ever published?). It’s a funny thing about my pristine copies of the Service Cookbook and my mother’s. They’re alike – and then again, they’re not. The pristine copies don’t evoke the same emotional response when I turn the pages. If nothing else, I can tell you exactly what I was learning to cook at the age of eight, from the stains on the pages. The most battered pages contain the recipes for old fashioned raisin cookies, Hermits, something called Rocks and chocolate ice-box cookies.

My mother’s Service Cookbook has a history; mine. When I turn the pages, I see myself, a little girl with a big apron tied around my waist, leafing through the pages of my mother’s cookbook, in search of recipes that matched the ingredients in the kitchen cabinets. Often, my two best friends, Carol and Patty, were with me in the kitchen and my two younger brothers would be on the back step happily anticipating the results of our endeavor. (It never mattered to them whether the end product was good or bad – they’d eat anything!).

I have carefully studied the copies of Ida Bailey Allen cookbooks that I own, to perhaps learn why she was such a prolific – and apparently very popular – cookbook author. Bearing in mind that all of her books were written prior to the invention of many time-saving kitchen appliances, you won’t find instructions to “chop in a food processor” or “puree in a blender”—although one of Mrs. Allen’s books was devoted to cooking with a pressure cooker. Cake recipes don’t start out with “one packaged cake mix” – everything is “from scratch”.

I was entertained reading “ROUND-THE-WORLD COOK BOOK” which was published by Best Foods, Inc., to promote Nucoa “the double-purpose food) which is, actually, margarine. Mrs. Allen advises that, “When used as a spread, the New Nucoa may be quickly transformed to a golden yellow color by using the color wafer (approved by the U.S. Government) that is enclosed with every package.

For cooking purposes, the New Nucoa may be used as it comes—milky white—or it may be tinted yellow according to preference….” For those of you too young to remember, in the 30s and early 40s, margarine was white. You had to add the yellow food coloring to it to make it look like butter

(James Trager, author of the Food Book, explains, “When the Illinois and Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association was founded in 1867, the dairy farmers could have had no idea that in France that year a man was beginning to work on a product that would one day threaten their livelihood and demand the marshalling of all their powers to resist its inroads.

The man was a chemist, Hypolite Mege-Mouries. Napolean III offered him a handsome prize if he could ‘produce a cheap butter for the Army, Navy and needy classes of the population’. After a sojourn of work on the Emperor’s farm, Mege-Mouries won the prize with a pearly-white product made of suet, or animal kidney fat, melted down and clarified, freed of its softer fats….mixed with milk and churned into solid fat. Mege-Mouriese named the lustrous butter substitute after the Greek word ‘margarites’ meaning pearly…”
Says Trager, the process was patented in England in 1869 and soon American meat packers were producing it as well. And the reason you had to add the little color wafer to turn it yellow? For many years, yellow margarine was outlawed in the dairy states.

Wisconsin was the last holdout, yielding in 1967. (As for me, I still prefer butter to anything else—but now you know the rest of the story!).

Another entertaining little book written by Ida Bailey Allen was “The Modern Method of Preparing Delightful Foods”, which is (albeit hard cover), what we now think of as “pamphlet size”, a mere 4”x7”, which sold “for the exceedingly low price of 10c (which does not cover the cost of printing, wrapping and mailing)” advise the publishers, Corn Products Refining Company, the original manufacturers of products such as Karo Syrup and Mazola Corn Oil. This was published in 1927 and in it, Mrs. Allen refers to her work “with the National Food Administration during the Great War..” which was World War I.

You’ll find a lot to entertain you in this little book, from the legend of corn to advice on caring for the table linens. Very little escaped Mrs. Allen’s attention!

If you happen to come across some of Ida Bailey Allen’s cookbooks, check them out.

Cookbook author Jean Anderson thinks that Mrs. Allen’s last cookbook, “Best Loved Recipes of the American People” may have been a compilation of recipes collected throughout her long career. Ida Bailey Allen passed away in 1973. But she left us with a legacy.

The following list of cookbooks authored by Ida Bailey Allen is incomplete but it’s what I have been able to find:

A NEW SNOWDRIFT COOKBOOK, 1920
WOMAN’S WORLD CALENDAR COOKBOOK, 1922
VITAL VEGETABLES WITH ANALYSIS, 1927
MODERN METHODS OF PREPARING DELIGHTFUL FOODS, 1927
WHEN YOU ENTERTAIN, 1932
THE SERVICE COOKBOOK, 1933
ROUND THE WORLD COOKBOOK, 1934
IDA BAILEY ALLEN’S WINES & SPIRITS COOKBOOK, 1934
COOKING MENUS SERVICE, 1935
IDA BAILEY ALLENS EVERY DAY COOKBOOK, 1938
IDA BAILEY ALLEN’S KITCHENETTE COOKBOOK FOR TWO, 1938
COMMON SENSE COOKBOOK 1939
IDA BAILEY ALLEN’S NEW MODERN COOKBOOK, 1939
MONEY SAVING COKBOOKI, 1940, 1942
COOKBOOK FOR TWO 1947
STEP BY STEP COOKBOOK, 1952
SOLVING THE HIGH COST OF EATING, 1952
GASTRONOMIQUE, 1958
BEST LOVED RECIPES OF AMERICAN PEOPLE, 1973
DATE OF PUBLICATION UNKNOWN:
MRS. ALLEN’S BOOK OF SUGAR SUBTITUTES
LUCIOUS LUNCHEONS & TASTY TEAS
YOUTH AFTER 40
GOLDEN RULE FOODS
DOUBLE QUICK COOKING FOR PART TIME HOME MAKERS

The following references can be found in THE FOOD CHRONOLOGY by James Trager:

MRS ALLEN’S COOK BOOK by Ida Cogswell Allen, published in 1916, – author was 32

1924 MRS ALLEN ON COOKING, MENUS, SERVICE; 2500 RECIPES BY IDA C. BAILEY ALLEN

IN 1932, MRS ALLEN’S MODERN COOK BOOK provides a recipe for escalloped tuna fish using canned tuna and instructions match those given by Mrs. Beeton in 1865 for cod a la bechamel.

1939 THE COMMON SENSE COOK BOOK was published

1940 IDA BAILEY ALLEN’S TIME-SAVING COOK BOOK was published

1943 DOUBLE-QUICK COOKING FOR PART-TIME HOMEMAKERS was aimed at u.s. women with jobs in war plants, shipyards, hospitals and the like.

1952 SOLVING THE HIGH COST OF EATING: A COOKBOOK TO LIVE BY

1962, A COOK BOOK FOR GOURMETS, (author was now 72)

As a final note to this almost-completely-forgotten cookbook author, who set me on my path of cooking and being interested in anything about food, I simply want to add that, recently I scoured the shelves of four used book stores that have fairly comprehensive collections of cookbooks. I didn’t find any written by Ida Bailey Allen. But, Ida Bailey Allen, I love you where ever you are.

–Sandra Lee Smith
***

SEARCHING FOR NIKA HAZELTON – THE NO-NONSENSE COOK

Posted on January 23, 2011 | 14 Comments | Edit
January 23, 2011

One of the first cookbooks that I read by Nika Hazelton was something titled, “I COOK AS I PLEASE”, published in 1974. It was one of the first cookbooks that I found in which the author had skillfully woven memoir with recipes—and I was charmed. I was also hooked and wanted to learn more about Nika Hazelton. I began searching for her cookbooks.

Researching a cookbook author is not always an easy task—years ago, very little biographical information about cookbook authors was provided by the publishers. Today, any well-known cookbook author (such as James Beard, Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher, to name a few), has biographies written about them and the publisher usually provides a fairly substantial background bio on the book jacket. This wasn’t the case with cookbooks published decades ago. But when the collection of recipes is also a memoir, much can be gleaned from within the pages of the book, and not just from the dust jacket.

Let’s start with what we do know.

Nika Hazelton was born in Rome, (German father, Roman mother), grew up in Switzerland, and received her schooling in England. Nika studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics. She spent her early years traveling to the capitals of Europe with her father, who was a German diplomat.

In 1935, Nika made her home in the United States. She was considered an expert in the food of many countries. Nika began writing cookbooks during World War II, and at least seven of those books were on European cuisine. In addition to writing cookbooks, Nika was editor of the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Food and she wrote for virtually every major magazine, including The New Yorker, Family Circle, Vogue and Virginia Quarterly. . She also had a monthly column in The National Review and was a regular contributor to The New York Times. In addition, Nika was an editorial writer for Harper’s Bazaar, covering food stories. (With all the writing that she did for various magazines, it’s a wonder she found time to write cookbooks as well!).

One of her earliest books, “THE ART OF CHEESE COOKERY” was first published in 1949 by Doubleday & Company under the name of Nika Standen. Other books were published under the name of Nika Standen Hazelton and, later, just Nika Hazelton.

A clue to the type of cook she was can be found in the Introduction to “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN”, published in 1985. “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN” was not intended to be a cookbook for beginners. She lets you know from the onset that she assumes, if you have bought and are reading this book, you know something about cooking. She also explains that she likes simple foods made with the best ingredients available. Nika Hazelton was definitely a no-nonsense type of cook!

She used only freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the finest Tuscan olive oil (although she admitted to frying with peanut oil). She preferred butter over margarine for the simple reason that it tasted better. Nika never worried about cholesterol since she didn’t like fatty or greasy foods anyway and she removed all fat from meats and poultry (except when roasting a chicken!).

Nika said that she used few herbs and spices in her cooking because she disliked the flavor of too many herbs in one dish. “To my taste,” she wrote, I prefer to taste either basil or thyme or marjoram or sage or whatever in one dish rather than a combination of herbs.” However, she admitted to being less rigid with combinations of spices.

Nika wrote that she made cakes the old fashioned way, from scratch. She described her kitchen as being furnished with basic equipment, which included a KitchenAid mixer to mix, a Cuisinart to mince, a rotary peeler to peel and a small mandolin to cut transparent slices of potatoes and cucumbers. She writes, “My kitchen also sports a couple of balloon whisks, wooden spoons, good knives, and a very sharp pair of scissors, as well as the standard paraphernalia of measuring cups, mixing bowls, measuring spoons and so forth…”

She explains that she lived in the city and didn’t have much kitchen space, so she kept only bare essentials on hand in the pantry and said that she used very few canned foods (tomatoes, chickpeas and beans). Simplicity was Nika’s keyword throughout this introduction and to explain this philosophy, she said that she liked to keep things simple, possibly because throughout her life she had to cook for a family as well as professionally.

Consequently, Nika adopted (to quote her), a “somewhat dispassionate” view of cooking—which may be a far cry from the themes of most professional cooks and cookbook authors. Generally, we expect a high level of enthusiasm from our cookbook authors! On the other hand, “FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN” was published in 1985 and the dear lady had been cooking and writing by this time for quite a few decades. Although I still haven’t determined the date of her birth we do know that she came to the United States in 1935 and wrote a number of cookbooks during World War II.

At the time of writing “I COOK AS I PLEASE”, published in 1974, the author was living on Riverside Drive in New York City, with her husband, with a view that looked over the green trees of Riverside Park and the Hudson River. This kitchen is also described as small and utilitarian. The author says, “It is by no means a display kitchen where I celebrate with imported cookware or run a cooking school. Nor,” she adds, “is it a family kitchen where the folks gather for warmhearted meals. Family meals with children,” she admonishes, “are horrible, yet children have to eat with their betters, as parents were called in a less permissive age, to learn at least a modicum of table manners…”

Nika thought teen-age meals no less awful, “Since fights lie beneath the surface. My children have known all this from early childhood, and even now when we have lived through a family meal, we all say: ‘Thank God, all has gone off well.”

Her kitchen in “I COOK AS I PLEASE” is described as having black Formica counters, a butcher block top and pine cabinets that got waxed three times a year, “and that,” she proclaims, “is it, even in dirty New York.” She describes the contents of cabinets and drawers in this kitchen, with “ironed towels done by the laundry because ironed kitchen towels are nice and life is too short to iron them…” This drawer also contained her aprons because it had been a hard and fast rule in her mother’s kitchen to wear an apron. Another drawer is described as holding “the flotsam and jetsam of kitchen life: Hungarian pastry brushes made from goose feathers, frames for making chocolate leaves, rubber bands, candles for blackouts, bottle tops with artistic design on top given to me by a five-year-old child as a token of her affection, fondue forks, scallop shells, measuring tapes, and a collection of never-consulted food leaflets, including one on how to make cheese at home…”

(This, from a woman who wrote an entire cookbook about cheese!).

She didn’t have a dishwasher—this woman who had a laundry service to iron her dishtowels—and said she could live without one since she didn’t find dishwashing nasty, “whereas,” Nika proclaims, “I find making beds nasty…”

“As I wash up, under running hot water” she explains, “I muse about any number of subjects. Dishwashing is much better for musing than lying in one’s bath or in bed….” (To which I have to agree. But I have to say, I don’t iron dishtowels, nor are they done at a laundry!)

Nika confessed that cookbooks were another one of the subjects she mused about as she washed dishes, and she writes an entire chapter about cookbooks in “I Cook As I Please”—she comments, quite rightly I think, that “cookbooks are mostly bought as escape literature, not to cook from…”

Well, I don’t agree with Nika last sentence but perhaps that is how she felt about too many cookbooks in the 1970s. Of all the Hazelton cookbooks in my possession, “I COOK AS I PLEASE” remains my favorite.

Nika Standen Hazelton is the author (or co-author) of the following cookbooks:

• REMINISCENCE AND RAVIOLI, 1946, William Morrow & Co.
• THE ART OF CHEESE COOKERY, (published under the name of Nika Standen) Doubleday & Company, 1949
• THE CONTINENTAL FLAVOR, 1961
• CLASSIC SCANDINAVIAN COOKING, 1965, 1987 Galahad Books
• THE ART OF SCANDINAVIAN COOKING, 1965
• THE SWISS COOKBOOK, 1967 Atheneum Publishers
• HOUSE OF INDIA COOKBOOK, 1967, co-authored with Syed Abdullah.
• HAMBURGER, 1972, SIMON & SHUSTER
• DINNER AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 1972, by Charles Oliver FORWARD by Nika Hazelton
• I COOK AS I PLEASE, 1974, Grosset & Dunlap
• UNABRIDGED VEGETABLE COOKBOOK 1976
• NIKA HAZELTON’S WAY WITH VEGETABLES, 1976 , republished 1995 by Castle Books
• AMERICAN HOME COOKING, 1980, Viking Press
• FAMILY CIRCLE RECIPES AMERICA LOVES BEST, 1982
• NIKA HAZELTON’S PASTA COOKBOOK, 1984, Ballantine Books
• FROM NIKA HAZELTON’S KITCHEN, 1985, Viking Press
• UPS AND DOWNS, MEMOIRS OF ANOTHER TIME, 1989, Harper & Row
• THE BELGIAN COOKBOOK
• EGGS!
• THE PICNIC BOOK
• STEWS!
• CHOCOLATE!
• THE BEST OF ITALIAN COOKING
• THE ART OF DANISH COOKING
• WHAT SHALL I COOK TODAY?
• THE COOKING OF GERMANY (Food of the World Series)
• RAGGEDY ANN AND ANDY’S COOKBOOK
• AMERICAN WINES
• THE REGIONAL ITALIAN KITCHEN
• LA CUISINE BY R. OLIVIER (translator and editor)
• THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM COOKBOOK (co author Faith Stewart-Gordon)
• COOKIES AND BREADS; THE BAKER’S ART co-authored with Ilse Johnson and Ferdinand Boesch
• INGREDIENTS COOK’S* co-authored with Adrian Bailey and Philip Dowell (illustrator)

Like I have so many other times with other cookbook authors, I Googled Nika Standen Hazelton to see if I could find some biographical information. I did.

Nika Hazelton, Whose Cookbooks Influenced U.S. Tastes, Dies at 84
By MOLLY O’NEILL
Published: April 17, 1992

Nika Hazelton, whose cookbooks have been a mainstay of serious cooks for nearly half a century, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 84 years old and lived in Manhattan.
She died of natural causes after a lingering illness, said her son, Dr. S. A. Standen, who lives in London.

Mrs. Hazelton, the daughter of a German diplomat, was born in Rome, attended school there, and studied at the London School of Economics. She began her career as a reporter in 1930, covering the League of Nations for the German Press Association and then moving on to freelance work.

After marrying and emigrating to the United States in 1940, she began writing cookbooks with recipes culled primarily from home cooks throughout Europe and South America.

She published 30 books and they reflected her firm, no-nonsense taste in food. “American Home Cooking” (Bobbs Merrill, 1967), “French Home Cooking” (Viking Penguin, 1979,) “International Cookbook” (Harper & Row, 1967) and “The Italian Cookbook (Henry Holt, 1979) remain standards.

She was also a frequent contributor to the major food magazines and for several decades wrote a column about food, wine and travel for The National Review.

As cooking became trendy and precious in the United States, she seemed to raise a speculative eyebrow. Facing a group of wine writers in New York several years ago, Mrs. Hazelton waved aside questions about white truffles and little-known family vineyards. “I’m here to show you a meal from Tuscany that has the virtue of not being too expensive and not taking much genius or fuss to prepare,” she informed her audience and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to make escarole and rice soup.
Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1954. She married Harold Hazelton in 1956. He died in November.(year?)

Mrs. Hazelton is survived by two sons, Dr. Standen and J. O. Standen, a lawyer in San Francisco, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 P.M. on April 28 at St. Agnes Church on East 43d Street in Manhattan.

Correction: April 18, 1992, Saturday An obituary yesterday about the cookbook author Nika Hazelton misstated the day of her death and the date of a memorial service. She died on Wednesday, and the service will be on April 27, at 3 P.M., at the Church of St. Agnes, 141 East 43d Street, in Manhattan
**
I have to tell you, I was bemused to read about her comment to the group of wine writers, as indicated above in her obituary. That is
so Nika.

*The obituary credits Ms. Hazelton with writing 30 cookbooks. Possibly they weren’t including the cookbooks she co-authored.
–Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook reading!

Sandra Lee Smith
**

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

Posted on May 10, 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also offered in Volume II are recipes for raccoon, squirrel, woodchuck and turtle. Meta lost me at “evisceration and removal of feathers, removal of fur….” But you know what? Of all the comprehensive cookbooks in my collection, these are surely the most detailed (everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask? I wasn’t afraid to ask—I just never wanted to KNOW).
Elsewhere on Google, someone wrote, “My mother was only 17 years old when she got married. Somewhere in that time, she was given a special two volume cookbook set called Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Modern Cooking. It was a true cookbook of the 50’s, offering advice so basic, the author must have assumed many of her readers couldn’t boil water. Until Julia Child altered my mother’s views on food, Meta Given’s was the only cookbook in our home. The recipes were so simple and straightforward, I learned to cook from them at a very young age. By the time I was nine years old I could make real fudge, basic one-bowl cakes, quick breads, and peanut butter cookies all by myself. I also learned to make a pumpkin yeast bread when I was slightly older. Over the years my mother’s Meta Given’s cookbook disintegrated into a pile of loose pages. However, I was able to track down a used set several years ago. Although most of the recipes seem outdated, it was quite an experience just holding the cookbook while childhood memories rushed back…”

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

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

I have the following:

• The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942
• Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Volumes 1 and II published in 1947
• The Modern Family Cook Book, published in 1953
As well as the following, which I do not have:
• The Art of Modern Cooking and Better Meals: recipes for every occasion
• The Modern Family Cook Book New Revised Edition
• The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given 1968
• The Wizard Modern Family Cookbook
• Delicious Dairy Dishes

On August 10, 2011 someone named Don posted the following comment:
Hi Sandy, Please let me know if you ever find out what happened to Meta Given. I have been going through some old family letters and it turns out that my great aunt, Helen Swadey, was her assistant in the 40′s and 50′s. She would help with the writing and arranging the final meals for the photo shoot. Thanks! Don
I sent Don the following message: “Hi, Don – how interesting that your great aunt worked for Meta Given! I HAVEN’T learned anything more than what I wrote but maybe someone will read this and write, if they know anything else about her. Oddly enough I have had emails from a number of people, in response to other cookbook authors I have written about – so there’s always a possibility that someone will see the inquiry and shed some light on this prolific and excellent cookbook author. Now, that would have been a job I’d have loved – assistant to Meta Given! Let me know if you learn anything else.

On February 2, someone named Brenda sent the following message to my blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That brilliant work, published in 1947 by J.G. Ferguson and later distributed by Doubleday, contained in its 1969 edition 1,665 pages, 71 tables and charts, 230 photographs in black-and-white and color, 2,906 tested recipes and more than 200 drawings. Considerably in excess of a million copies are now in use.
Born and reared on a farm in the Ozarks, where, as she once put it, ‘my parents had no money,’ Miss Given remained throughout a vigorous life essentially modest and straightforward.

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

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

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

“I couldn’t fire my staff. But the jobs that came along were spasmodic, and so to keep my people busy, I started them working on a household cookbook.” In 1942, J. G. Ferguson, a Chicago printer whom Miss Given had consulted, published the “Modern Family Cookbook.” From it, the encyclopedia developed.
A heart attack in the late 1940s persuaded Miss Given she should pursue a quieter life. The tall, spare, broad-shouldered woman, with a coronet of white hair, wound up her hectic career in Chicago, and retired to Florida, where, among other things, she grew oak leaf lettuce and developed recipes for pies using loquats and other local fruits.

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

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

UPDATE! May 10, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

=–Sandra Lee Smith
**

CHASING THE LURE OF OLD COOKBOOKS

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 Amazon.com or Alibris.com? 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 Amazon.com 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