I love thee made with walnuts
Or a cup of chocolate chips,
I love thee made with chocolate syrup
Or those toffee bits;
I love thee with a glass of milk
Or a cup of tea,
I love thee when you’re hot or cold;
It’s all agrees with me;
Brownies that are cake-like or
Brownies fudgy, dark and dense,
Flavored with vanilla too,
Makes a lot of sense;
Nobody knows from whence you came,
Or who was your creator
You’ve been around a hundred years,
And just keep getting better;
You’ve changed a lot since way back when
Though some parts are the same
But since you were invented,
Baking hasn’t been the same!
— Sandra Lee Smith

Brownies…I’ve been making them since I was about 10 years old. Who doesn’t love brownies?

Personally, I like my brownies best loaded with ingredients – chopped nuts, chocolate chips, some chopped up Hershey’s miniatures if I am out of chocolate chips, some dried cherries – I love it all. (If I am making brownies for my sons, I have to leave out the chopped nuts. They all LIKE nuts but not in their food. Go figure – they didn’t get that from me). I made a great discovery not long ago; I keep a candy jar filled with Hershey miniatures but the little Mr. Goodbars are always the last to get eaten – so one day when I was out of chocolate chips, I chopped up about a dozen little Mr.Goodbars and tossed them into the brownie batter. Oh, yum! For special occasions, my brownies are topped off with a dark chocolate glaze .

I have been working on my recipe file collection while watching the Olympic Coverage in Vancouver this month—if you clip recipes, chances are you stick them into a junk drawer and then forget about them. Well, I don’t stick the clippings into a drawer – but I collect them in a box, one of those fairly large boxes that reams of computer paper come in. The box is overflowing; when the Olympics roll around so I take it out, stock up on 3×5” or 4×6” file cards and buy a lot of Elmer’s glue—and start pasting the recipes onto cards. One of the fringe benefits of doing this – aside from watching all the Olympic events – is reading through recipes and setting aside interesting ones to try and maybe write about as well. I get a lot of inspiration this way. I knew I didn’t have enough recipe boxes for all the newly pasted cards so today we went to Michael’s and I bought 3 of those boxes designed to hold 4×6” photographs. They’re just the right size for 4×6” recipe cards too! (And the boxes were on sale, 3 for $5.00 – whoohoo!)

You may know that I collect recipe boxes – and love finding a “filled” recipe box (one filled with the previous owner’s recipe collection) but I don’t like to change anything about those collections, even if they have space to hold more recipe cards. I think I will have to go back on Ebay and search for some more small recipe boxes—meantime, I will be busy as long as the Olympics are on, pasting clippings onto cards.

So, today I have been setting aside brownie recipes even though I think my fudgy-wudgy brownie recipe, previously posted on my Blog, is about as good a brownie as you can make. But you may not care for a brownie that is more like candy than cake.

One of the things I love about brownies is that the ingredients are all pretty basic, generally what you would already have in your kitchen cupboard. But as much as we love our delicious brownies, the history of brownies is somewhat obscure. And although they are baked in a cake pan, we think of the brownie as a bar cookie. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for brownies—just going through some recipe cards this afternoon I found about 40 brownie recipe cards. This doesn’t include all the brownie recipes in my cookie cookbooks. Just for the heck of it, I checked some of my earliest cookbooks—one of the first I owned was my mother’s copy of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook first published in 1942, and as a wedding present I received a copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. Both provide basic Brownie recipes that are fairly similar. Also in my possession is one of the very FIRST Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks published in 1950. This is in slipcase and was one of a limited edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks presented to General Mills Employees. The father of a friend of mine worked at General Mills and received the cookbook, as did other employees. The point I want to make is that the brownie recipe in the 1950 edition is the same as the one published in a ring binder a decade later. **

There are a number of stories explaining the history of brownies–Extensive information about brownies can be found in my favorite cookbook author Jean Anderson’s 1997 “The American Century Cookbook”, and a little blurb of information is in John Mariani’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD & DRINK”. What is particularly intriguing is a paragraph in James Trager’s FOOD CHRONOLOGY which provides a timeline for food going back to prehistoric times. Trager’s comment on Brownies can be found on page 354, under the year 1897. He writes “The first known published recipe for brownies appears in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. Probably created when a careless cook failed to add baking power to a chocolate-cake batter; the dense, fudgy squares have been made for some time by housewives who received the recipe by word of mouth…”

But then a brownie recipe was published in the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is not as rich and chocolaty as the brownie we know today, using two squares of melted Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares. No one knows if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source and food historians will probably continue to debate the issue ad nauseum. As for Fannie Farmer! That’s another story I have been planning to share with you! Look for it in an upcoming post on my blog! She was a most interesting woman.

Jean Anderson refers to Lowney’s Cook Book, another cookbook in my collection, written by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston in 1907. Ms. Howard was a protégé of Ms. Farmer and added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe, creating a richer, more chocolaty brownie. For reasons only known to Ms. Howard, she called her recipe Bangor Brownies. Anderson also notes that Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics, published in 1979, credits Bangor Brownies as the original chocolate brownie—in any case, Lowney’s brownie recipe was richer and perhaps tastier. You can decide for yourself –

To make Bangor Brownies, you will need:

¼ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ to ¾ cup flour
1 cup nut meats

Put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well mixed. Spread evenly in a greased baking pan. Bake and cut in strips.

To make Lowney’s Brownies, you will need

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 squares Lowney’s premium chocolate (use 2 squares of any unsweetened chocolate. I usually have a box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares on my pantry shelf)
2 eggs
½ cup nutmeats
½ cup flour
¼ tsp salt

Cream butter; add remaining ingredients; spread on buttered sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Cut in squares as soon as taken from the oven*.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: The above is typed as originally directed; most brownie recipes today suggest you let the pan cool completely before cutting the brownies into bars.
Jean Anderson also notes that in 1916, Maria Parloa, one of the founders of the Boston Cooking School, developed a number of recipes for Walter Baker & Company (of chocolate fame), with all the ingredients worked out by Fannie Farmer in level measurements* to meet the needs of the demands of the time;. (*Fannie Farmer is credited with being the originator of level measurements. Prior to her creating exact measurements, such as 3 teaspoons equal one tablespoon and 8 ounces equals one cup) – early cookbooks might call for “butter the size of a walnut” or “a tea cup” of flour. Before Fannie Farmer, measurements were terribly imprecise).

In any case, brownies became enormously popular—possibly because they were so easy to make with ingredients commonly found on any pantry shelf, and now we have brownies to suit everybody’s palate.

So, here are some of my favorite Brownie recipes. This first one is a recipe I have been making ever since my sons were little boys.


To make saucepan brownies, you will need:

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter or margarine (but don’t use a soft spread)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour

Grease a 9” square pan and dust with flour. Set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat. Remove from heat, add sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in walnuts. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Pour into prepared pan and bake in pre heated 350 degree oven about 50 minutes. Cool thoroughly in pan on wire rack before cutting into 16 squares. Store, covered, in a cool place.

This next recipe has been in my files for so many years, I no longer remember where I found it. One bone of contention – her name is misspelled in the original printed recipe. MOST people misspelled her name. It was KATHARINE with an “A” not an “E”. The recipe is great.


To make Katharine Hepburn’s brownies, you will need:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
¼ lb sweet butter*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add
Eggs and vanilla and beat like mad. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 8×8” pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and then cut into 1 ½” squares. NOTE: Because the recipe calls for only ¼ cup flour rather than ½ or ¾ cup most brownie recipes call for, these brownies have a wonderful pudding-like texture.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: ¼ pound = 1 stick of butter. I assume sweet butter means unsalted. Also, Hepburn’s brownies are similar in preparation to saucepan brownies which translates into less cleanup in the kitchen.

Baker’s Chocolate One-Bowl Brownie Recipe, prepped in the microwave, only requires a bowl and a baking pan – and something to stir with. Another easy recipe. To make


4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

Microwave chocolate and margarine in a large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts. Spread in greased 13×9” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (DO NOT OVERBAKE). Cool. Makes 24.

*Rangetop: Stirring constantly, melt chocolate and margarine in a 3 quart saucepan over very low heat. To make CAKELIKE brownies, stir in ½ cup milk with the eggs and vanilla. Use 1 ½ cups flour.

The following cookie recipe is my friend Mary Jaynne’s signature dessert dish, often requested by friends and family. WE request it when there is a cookie exchange.

To make MJs Meltaway Brownies, you will need:

1 package brownie mix
½ cup each coconut and walnuts

Prepare brownies according to package directions, adding coconut and walnuts. Bake and cool thoroughly. To make 1st topping you will need:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 TBSP milk

Mix together powdered sugar, margarine or butter, and vanilla. Add milk a little at a time until spreading consistency. Frost brownies and refrigerate until firm.

To make 2nd topping you will need

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 TBSP margarine

Heat chocolate and margarine to melt. Pour over frosted brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate until cool and firm.


To make peanut butter brownies you will need:

¾ cup shortening
¾ cup peanut butter
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips*
¾ cup chopped peanuts

In mixing bowl, cream shortening and peanut butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts. Spread into a greased 15x10x1” baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen.

*Sandy’s cooknote: For a more intense peanut butter taste, try substituting peanut butter chips for the semisweet chocolate chips—or use half and half, ¾ cup of peanut butter chips, ¾ cup of chocolate chips.

To make Hershey’s Syrup Snacking Brownies, you will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup Hershey’s syrup
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 cup Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9x2” baking pan. Beat butter and eggs in large bowl; add chocolate syrup, eggs and flour; beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minute o until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes about 36 brownies.

To make BROWNIE MACAROONIES you will need:

2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
8 ounce package (2 2/3 cups) coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 15×10” jelly roll pan. Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour and cocoa to sugar mixture and mix well. Spread in prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and coconut. Spread over batter, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until coconut topping is lightly browned. Makes 48 bars.

Philly Marble Brownies also starts out with a box of brownie mix but dresses it up for special occasions.

To make Philly Marble Brownies, you will need:

1 pkg (21 ½ oz) brownie mix
1 pkg Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Spread batter in greased 13×9” pan. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Blend in egg. Pour over brownie batter; cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect. Sprinkle with chips. Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned. Cool n pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 2 dozen.

There is one more brownie recipe I want to share with you—and I admit, I haven’t tried making these yet, but I WILL very soon. I found this while working on my recipe collection and was intrigued by the addition of a particular ingredient – PEPPER!
To make Black Pepper Brownies, you will need:

¾ cup butter or margarine*, softened
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp EACH: instant coffee, black pepper, and vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
4 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup flour
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped coarse

In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, coffee, pepper, vanilla and salt; beat until well blended, scraping bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each only until incorporated. Slowly beat in chocolate, then flour, scraping bowl and beating only until blended. Stir in nuts. Turn into greased foil-lined 9” square pan; smooth top. Bake in lower third of preheated 375 degree oven 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out only barely moist. Remove from oven; cool in pan 15 minutes; remove from pan. Peel off foil; cool completely on rack. Chill slightly before cutting into 32 small brownies or 16 cake squares.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: I almost always bake with real butter. If you are using margarine always make sure it is a solid stick good for baking. The soft spreads won’t work and I am telling you this from personal experience. Also want to mention, the previous recipe is the only one that requires using a foil-lined pan but I always make my brownies in foil lined pans. It’s so much easier to remove them from the pan and then cut into nice tidy squares.

Happy Cooking!

*this was previously posted on my blog–I accidentally came across the recipe today and thought it would make good reading in 2016!


You have to stop and wonder, sometimes, about the origins of some recipes. I can imagine how some of them might have come about—I can picture myself making a chocolate cake and suddenly realizing I don’t have enough eggs or oil. I might think hmmmm, mayonnaise is made up from oil and eggs—I wonder if I can just substitute half a cup of mayo for the missing oil and eggs—and voila! I’ve just created chocolate mayonnaise cake.

This makes perfect sense to me. And in case you are wondering, the recipe is very good. Equally delicious are chocolate mayonnaise cookies—I took them to work a few times and was almost embarrassed to divulge the recipe. What could be easier? Chocolate cake mix, some mayonnaise and one or two other ingredients.

But sauerkraut cake? Somehow I just can’t picture the lady of the kitchen thinking, gee, I don’t have any coconut for my coconut cake—maybe I’ll just open up a can of sauerkraut and rinse it off and no one will ever know it isn’t coconut…I certainly wouldn’t risk ruining a recipe I had already started, with an ingredient that is so totally off the wall. And what about avocado cake or pinto bean cake? What were those culinary artists THINKING?

You have to wonder about tomato soup cake too (granted, it’s delicious) – but whose idea was it to throw in a can of tomato soup to make a spice cake? Was it someone experimenting in the Campbell Soup Kitchen, or a housewife with a little too much time on her hands? (No one seems to know the origin of tomato soup cake although it does appear in some of the older Campbell Soup cookbooks). Note: the oldest reference I have found for tomato soup cake is in a 1940 cookbook.

There are a lot of off the wall (i.e. weird) recipes. Enough that in 1977 a local (Southern California) radio show host, Geoff Edwards of KMPC in Los Angeles, put together a cookbook of wacky recipes and titled it “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING COOKBOOK”. Listeners sent in the recipes. All of the above were included—although I have seen them all elsewhere—and then some. There is even an authentic recipe for stuffed Roast Camel. Geoff said it was served sometimes at Bedouin weddings. Ew, Ew. That ranks right up there with Spam mousse, as far as I am concerned. I’ll take your word for it that it’s delicious. (Per Google, Tang is a sweet and tangy, orange-flavored, non-carbonated soft drink can be found at Tops, Wegmans, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aide, Walmart, and Target—so it’s STILL available.)

As for tomato soup cake AKA Mystery Cake this appears to have originated in the 1920s when cake was usually topped off with Philadelphia Cream Cheese frosting and we all have to admit, that’s pretty good frosting. I especially like the cream cheese frosting with carrot cake—and although most of us have become accustomed to carrot cake and zucchini bread—don’t you have to wonder whose idea it was to toss these things into cake batter in the first place? That was before we took up gardening and discovered how zucchini can take over a back yard garden patch and your life. You have to DO something with all those squashes—friends and neighbors will only take so many zucchinis even if you resort to leaving them wrapped in a baby blanket on their front porch. (I once delivered a large zucchini wrapped in a baby blanket to a co-worker). And whether you make zucchini bread or cake – either, I guarantee, is delicious. One of my favs is a chocolate zucchini cake and as a result of the zucchinis taking over our back yard, I began collecting zucchini recipes until I had filled a recipe box with them.

Do you suppose that the lady (or man) of the kitchen was thinking – well, carrot or zucchini worked pretty good in a cake – I wonder what will happen if I try adding red beets – and invented Harvard Beet Spice Cake? Or was it just some exhausted mother tired of trying to talk her kids into eating their veggies? I know how that can go. I raised four picky eaters. They got it from their father, King of the Picky Eaters. I often resorted to subterfuge. I dearly loved a fish almondine recipe that my penpal Betsy, in Michigan, once sent to me. The fish was topped off with slivered or shaved almonds. No one in my household would eat almonds in a “food dish” though. So I blended the almonds with bread crumbs and used it as a topping over the fish. They never knew.

So, do you suppose that the original creator of pink beet cake was some harried housewife, exhausted from trying to get her kids to eat their veggies, so she dumped a can of red beets into the cake batter and thought to herself hmmm, there’s more than one way to…. Et al.
And every time I think I have said all I need to say on a subject, I happen to come across something else. While sorting through an overflow of cookbooks (I am always sorting through an overflow of cookbooks), I found one that looked interesting and hadn’t read…a book titled CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE by Al Sicherman. CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE was published in 1988 by Harper & Row.
The author joined the Minneapolis Star & Tribune in 1968. A copy editor since 1981, Siherman has been writing articles for the food section of the Star & Tribune. Mr. Sicherman is a kindred spirit, the kind of person who ALSO wondered about pinto beans and avocadoes turning up in your cake batter. He wrote a piece called “Things that go bump in the Oven” and speculated how Catherine Hanley ever came up with the Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe—he even called her up to ask—and he wonders about things like Impossible Pies (which we all know and love). Well, all of us who are well versed in, and collect the Pillsbury Bake-Off books, know the Tunnel of Fudge story and it appears that Impossible Pies were an accident, created by some unknown person.

(I thought the first Impossible Pie was an impossible coconut pie—the recipe appeared in a 1974 Cheviot (Ohio) PTA cookbook that my sister Becky was involved in creating. Here’s what I uncovered sleuthing on Google:

The origins of Impossible Pie (aka mystery pie, coconut amazing pie) are sketchy at best. A survey of newspaper/magazine articles suggests this recipe originated in the south (where coconut custard pies are popular). It was “discovered” by General Mills (Bisquick) and General Foods, who capitalized on the opportunity to promote their products. Corporate recipes surfaced in the mid-1970s. There are conflicting reports about the dates of introduction. The earliest recipe we have on file was published in 1968. None of the ingredients are name-brand.
This article sums up the situation best:

“Amazing. Mysterious. It could be none other than Impossible Pie, one of the most successful corporate recipe projects in the U.S. food-marketing history. Versions of Impossible Pie were also named Mystery Pie or Amazing Coconut Pie. By any name, though, Americans took to the easy recipe that is adaptable for making both sweet dessert pies and savory meat, vegetable and cheese pies. Back when quiche was trendy, the Impossible Pie formula called for ingredients similar to those for quiche yet eliminated the need to make a separate pastry crust…Not one but two huge food corporations benefited by popularizing the simple recipe formula for the Impossible Pie mixtures: the two big “Generals.” One was the Minneapolis-based General Mills, home of mythical Betty Crocker and maker of Bisquick all-purpose baking mix. The other was General Foods of White Plains, N.Y., marketer of Angel Flake processed coconut…The real mystery: Where did this recipe originate? We know the two “Generals” took a basic formula and then developed variations to showcase their respective products. Lisa Van Riper, spokeswoman for Kraft General Foods, said the company’s well-advertised recipe for Amazing Coconut Pie, “was developed as a result of a creative adaptation of the Bisquick Impossible Pies. We took a Bisquick Impossible Pie and did a creative twist by adding coconut, raisins and some other things. That was developed in June 1976 by our test-kitchen’s task force from a recipe submitted by various sources. Essentially that source was the Bisquick Impossible Pie. The Amazing Coconut Pie recipe also forms its own crust–with the baking mix sinking to the bottom of a custard mixture–and has been used ever since 1976, according to Van Riper. General Mills’ Marcia Copeland, director of Betty Crocker foods and publications, recalls that “we first saw the recipe for (crustless) coconut custard pies in Southern community cookbooks.” So it was a grass-roots recipe first, origin unknown. Some very old community cookbooks contain pie recipes that make their own crusts just from flour; others call for homemade biscuit mix. Copeland said that the Impossible Pie phenomenon lasted from the late 1970s through the 80s…

And now you know the rest of the story. But let me add that I have friends who are still making impossible pies. Last year, I copied a bunch of the recipes and sent them to a girlfriend.
Back to CARAMEL KNOWLEDGE: Sicherman asked “Did you ever wonder, when you were eating a piece of bread, how in the world anybody figured out what yeast would do what it does in there? Or have you ever wondered what caveman reasoned that smashing a chicken egg into some other stuff would be anything but peculiar? (or how many times he did it before it occurred to him to remove the shell?)…”

Now this opens an entirely new vista: I haven’t been worrying about eggs and yeast, having been focused on strange things in my cake batter, but you get the picture.

And then there are all sorts of other peculiar things like mock apple pie, being made from Ritz crackers –another topic for another day. (See my article title “Mock Apple Pie and other Foodie Wannabees” posted on 2/6/11)

If you want to try some of these recipes, here goes:

2 CUPS milk
¼ cup butter or margarine
1½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick baking mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Place all ingredients in blender container. Cover and blend on high 15 seconds. Pour into pie plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool.

One of my favorite Impossible pies is the pumpkin one – and since it’s just a few weeks until Thanksgiving, let me share this one with you too:


1 CAN (16 OZ) pumpkin
1 can (13 oz) evaporated milk
2 TSP butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick Baking mix
2½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pie plate, 9×1¼ x 1½ inches. Beat all ingredients 1 minute in blender on high, or 2 minutes with hand beater. Pour into plate. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp EACH baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon,
1l2 tsp each nutmeg and salt
1/4 cup cocoa
3 eggs
1 tsp each vanilla extract and grated orange peel
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (3 or 4)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Use shredded raw or pureed cooked zucchini (gives a finer texture) Preheat oven 350.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and cocoa and set aside.
In large bowl beat eggs very light. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy and pale ivory in color. Slowly beat in oil.

Stir in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk and zucchini. Blend well. Add nuts (if using). Put into sheet cake pan or 2 9″ layer cake pans. Bake 350 40-45 minutes for layers, 1 hr for sheet. Layers: fill and frost with icing. Sheet cake: while warm drizzle with orange glaze.
GLAZE: Stir in bowl, 1 cup powdered sugar, 5 tsp orange juice, 1 tsp shredded orange peel and 1 TBSP hot melted butter.


2/3 cup sauerkraut
2¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
9 oz dairy sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Thoroughly grease a10” tube pan. Cut a ring of brown paper to fit the bottom of the pan and grease that, too. (*if you don’t have any brown paper, I think parchment paper will work just as well)

Drain and rinse the sauerkraut and snip it into very small pieces.

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt and cocoa. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Alternately add dry ingredients and water to the butter mixture, stirring after each addition and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients Fold in sauerkraut and chocolate chips.
Turn into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees 55 minutes to an hour, or until cake is springy. (Toothpick test won’t work). Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes; loosen cake from sides of pan with knife and invert on serving plate. Peel paper from the top. Prepare glaze; melt butter and brown sugar together. Boil 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Cool 10 minutes, then beat in hot milk. Add sifted powdered (confectioners) sugar, stirring until glaze consistency. Drizzle over slightly warm cake.


1 PKG chocolate cake mix, 2 layer size
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
½ cup Miracle Whip dressing
½ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonsful onto greased cookie sheets* Bake 10-23 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes 4 dozen.

(*Sandy’s cooknote: I’ve said this many times. I don’t grease cookie sheets anymore. I use parchment paper, cut to fit the cookie sheets and you can use it REPEATEDLY. It works much better than greasing the cookie sheets).

• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 egg
• 2 cups cooked pinto beans, mashed
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• 2 cups diced apple without peel

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube pan.
2. Cream butter or margarine and sugar together. Add the beaten egg and mix well. Stir in the mashed cooked beans and the vanilla.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground allspice together. Add the chopped pecans, golden raisins, and the diced apples to the flour mixture. Stir to coat. Pour flour mixture into the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 45 minutes. Dribble with a simple confectioner’s sugar icing and garnish with candied cherries and pecan halves, if desired.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

¾ cup sauerkraut drained and chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup water
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Sift all dry ingredients together. Cream sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat eggs in one at a time.
2. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with water.
3. Add sauerkraut mix thoroughly.
4. Pour into greased pan or pans.
5. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until cake tests done.
6. Frost

• 2 cups flour
• 1/2 cup cocoa
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 cup water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Cream together the sugar, mayonnaise, water and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into greased and floured layer cake pans (or a 9- x 13-inch pan). Bake at 350°F. for about 25 minutes.


1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. oil
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. pureed cooked fresh beets (if using canned, drain and mash.)
6 tbsp. carob or chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, soda, salt and set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, oil in mixing bowl. Beat in beets, chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating well. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

This is an excellent cake. Healthy too. Very moist.

Chocolate Avocado Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch tins. Set aside. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside too. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

Pour batter into greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before icing.
I read about a tomato soup cake “from Michigan” which made me wonder –DID tomato soup cake originate in Michigan? I turned to two of my favorite resources, AMERICA COOKS by the Browns, published in 1940 – attributes Tomato Soup Cake to Michigan, as do Larry Massie & Priscilla Massie in their fantastic cookbook “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” which does indeed offer a recipe for tomato soup cake. Their recipe comes from a 1945 Kalamazoo community cookbook. Here is that recipe for tomato soup cake:

1 cup sugar
2 TSP shortening
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 can tomato soup
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped nut meats

Cream shortening, add sugar, then tomato soup, then flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and soda. Then add raisins and nuts and bake in a loaf pan for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

And here is the Tomato Soup cake recipe in the Browns cookbook, “AMERICA COOKS”:

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup tomato soup, undiluted
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Blend the shortening with sugar. Stir baking soda into tomato soup and add to shortening/sugar mixture. Sift dry ingredients and add the mixture. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Pour into greased and floured 13” by 9” cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Frost with a Cream Cheese Frosting.

To make the Browns’ Frosting for tomato soup cake:

1 pkg cream cheese
1 TBSP butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar to spreading consistency

The Browns note that the shortening they used was Crisco and one entire can of Campbell’s condensed and undiluted tomato soup equaled one cup. Now this may be a minor discrepancy in today’s can of Campbell’s tomato soup, inasmuch as all of the soups measure a net weight of 10 ¾ ounces…but when you pour the contents of a cream soup into a glass measuring cup—it’s just a shade over 8 ounces. What to do? Use a can of tomato soup and go ahead with the recipe. I don’t think it will make any difference. If you are a purist, scoop away anything over one cup.

Happy Cooking!

*This blog article was originally posted on 11/11


Originally posted January, 2011

For some time, I’ve thought about writing capsule biographies about some of the famous chefs. Finding chefs to write about was no problem—there are so many, especially nowadays, when hundreds, if not thousands, of four-star restaurants throughout the USA all boasting of their own super-chefs, who in turn frequently write cookbooks. I must have several dozen chef-authored cookbooks on my bookshelves. Other famous chefs appear on television and cable cooking shows; many of them have become familiar household names and faces. Who isn’t familiar with Rachel Ray and Paula Dean, Bobbie Flay and dozens of other TV chefs?

Many of the old-time chefs and cooking teachers of the 1800s – women such as Fannie Farmer, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Lincoln and others have been written about in depth by other writers. I think I would rather tell you about another super-chef, one you may not know as much about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, Szathmary arrived, in his own words, “virtually penniless” in New York in 1951, with only fourteen books in his small wooden trunk.

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

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

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

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

Szathmary authored several cookbooks of his own, including “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOK BOOK” and “AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”. He was advisory editor for a series of 27 cookbooks, in 15 volumes, titled “COOKERY AMERICANA”, for which he also provided introductions. (I only have three of the volumes from the series at this time, “MIDWESTERN HOME COOKERY” and “MRS. PORTER’S NEW SOUTHERN COOKERY BOOK”, and “COOL, CHILL, AND FREEZE”. These are facsimile editions of earlier cookbooks. Szathmary seems to have been utterly dedicated to American cookery and cookbooks.

Szathmary was a prolific writer, and in addition to cookbooks, also wrote poetry. Additionally, he wrote a food column for the Chicago Daily News, and then in the Sun-Times every week for twelve years! Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough to do, for after closing the restaurant, he continued to operate Szathmary Associates, a food system design and management consulting business, and he devoted a great deal of time to what he described as “the matter of the books”. He also continued to lecture and worked continuously on new projects.

What is particularly intriguing about Szathmary as a chef is, I think, his wide range of expertise. So many of the super chefs today focus on one type of cooking. Szathmary, who could have devoted himself to solely to Hungarian cuisine, seems to have adopted the American potpourri of cookery, which embraces many nationalities. He was famous for his Continental cuisine, in particular his Beef Wellington.

What you may not know about Szathmary is that he developed the first frozen dinners for Stouffer Food Corp. He worked as product development manager for Armour, coming up with new foods and ways to prepare them. Szathmary also designed a kitchen for military field hospitals that could be dropped by parachute and assembled quickly in combat zones.

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

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

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

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

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

Szathmary concluded, “The best-kept secret of the good chef is his long training and daily performance. It’s not enough to make a dish once and when it’s not up to standard, to declare, ‘the recipe is no good.’”

Szathmary spearheaded culinary education in Chicago by fostering work study programs with restaurants at vocational and high schools. Students and dining enthusiasts were invited to use the library on the second floor of The Bakery. He shared a passion for travel by assisting first time travelers with their plans to visit Europe and Asia.
Szathmary chose, on his own, to donate the bulk of his collections to various universities and institutions. Aside from Szathmary’s incredible generosity, what a wise move to make! Can you think of any better way to make sure the things you love most will be treasured by future generations, people who are certain to love your books as much as you do?

Szathmary explained that he had always bought books for various reasons. ‘When you bet on the horse race,” he said, “You bet for win, for place, for show. When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them….’

And after having donated hundreds of thousands of books and documents to these different universities, Szathmary confessed “I am still buying books. It’s like getting pregnant after the menopause; it’s not supposed to happen.”

My all-time favorite Szathmary story is written in an article about obsessed amateurs. Writer Basbanes met Szathmary as the transfer of some 200,000 articles to the warehouses at Johnson & Wales was taking place. Szathmary was overseeing the transfer of his collection. Where, Basbanes asked the great chef, had he stored all this material?

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

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

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.

“THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK” was published in 1972 by Quadrangle Books and is packed with mouth-watering recipes and lots of “Chef’s secrets” – tips provided by the master himself. “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book” was on the New York Times bestseller list for several years.

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.

“THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOKBOOK” was published in 1976 and “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.

Szathmary also edited a fifteen volume collection of historic American cookbooks. One of the volumes in this series is “Cool, Chill and Freeze/A new Approach to Cookery” which I purchased from This is a reproduction , with introduction and suggested recipes from Louis Szathmary, of recipes from “FLORIDA SALADS” by Frances Barber Harris, originally published in 1926, and Alice Bradley’s ‘ELECTRIC REFRIGERATOR MENUS AND RECIPES”, first published in 1928 (oddly enough, I have both of the originals).

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

Since embarking on the life of Louis Szathmary, I have purchased three of his cookbooks from Alibris.Com on the Internet – they have a great listing! The most recent to arrive is a copy of “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook” which I was delighted to discover is autographed by the great chef—who was something of an artist, too! (Why am I not surprised?).

His ‘autograph’ is the face of a chef, wearing a white chef’s hat.

Louis Szathmary was a member of the United States Academy of Chefs, the Chef de Cuisine Association of Chicago, and the Executive Chefs’ Association of Illinois. In 1974, he was awarded the coveted titled of Outstanding Culinarian by the Culinary Institute of America, and in 1977, he was elected Man of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. He was considered by many to be the “homemakers best friend”, a master chef who willingly shared his secrets of culinary expertise with the world. His cookbooks read in a friendly, chatty way, making me wish with all my heart I could have known….this super chef! You would be wise to make an effort to add his books—if you don’t already own them—to your cookbook collection. Louis Szathmary was, above all, an excellent chef.

Louis Szathmary died in Chicago, after a brief illness, in 1996. He was 77 years old.
Nicholas Basbanes, in his article about Chef Louis for Biblio, described his first meeting with “this delightful, compassionate, brilliant man with the big white mustache”, relating “when I asked how it feels to give away books that were such an indelible part of his generous soul, Chef Szathmary responded, “The books I give away now, they stay in my heart, just like all the others. I don’t have to see them to love them.”

I wish I could have known him.

*Since posting the article about Louis Szathmary on my blog in 2011, I have received one hundred and fifty responses to my post! I can’t possibly rewrite all 150 but will try to provide you with some of the highlights which provides additional insight to the Chef, and what happened to a large portion of his collections: I deleted most of my responses to these messages but for ALL of the 150 responses I suggest readers go to my blog:. Salute to the Chef is on the title page.

From Nancy Skoda | January 5, 2011

I had the pleasure of working as one of Chef Louis’ personal assistants from 1985-1986. He certainly was a fascinating character and very aware of his own importance in cooking history. In addition to his extensive cookbook collection which included favorite church and community cookbooks (a personal favorite) Chef Louis also had an extensive post card collection. Seeing your blog about him brought back wonderful memories.

From Sue Rupp | February 5, 2011

Thank you so much for writing about Mr. Szathmary! I only ate at The Bakery twice, as I lived several hours away, but both times he came into the restaurant and greeted each table – such a new thing for a Midwesterner in the 70s & 80s. I have eaten in many famous restaurants since then but this first experience with great food and an interesting chef, in a unique setting, will always remain the most memorable and the best! I have all of his cookbooks and have slowly tried to collect the Americana series though some have been impossible to find.

From Dennis Crabb | March 28, 2011

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

From Helen Donna (Muranyi)

| April 17, 2011 I must add my story. When I was about 35 years old I was married to a Hungarian. My name then was Muranyi. I was working in Chicago selling radio advertising. Unwittingly I made an un person sales call on Louis. He roared at the thought that he might need advertising. He explained that reservations were filled weeks in advance. However, he was such a sweetheart he invited me to his library to see his 14th century Hungarian cookbook and his test kitchen. Needless to say at his invitation my husband and I did dine there as often as possible and it was the “special” restaurant for occasions for the children. The two younger never got to go as they were too young and grudgingly bring it up still as adults that were cheated. Always when we did dine there we received a special appetizer(usually a baked white fish in white sauce) that we noticed other diners were not served. Could it have been that the reservation was made in the name Muranyi? Usually we had a tableside visit from Louis and sometimes his cute little birdy Japanese wife. Actually I am searching for some information on her artwork that she had on the walls made from the wine corks. If you could be helpful in any way I would be grateful for any information or help. Those were special memories for my family.

From juan Boldizsar | July 7, 2011

Sandy, did you know that Chef Louis was responsible for the lobbying initiative that changed the US government’s classification of food service workers from “domestics” to “professionals”?

Chef Louis did, indeed, have a temper . . . . I worked there throughout my adolescence -Saturdays, school breaks, summer vacations- and I managed to get myself on the receiving end of it from time to time. Miss Lenegan (as Barbara Kuck often affectionately addressed Nancy) can attest to that! It took me a while, but I eventually realized that much of Chef Louis’ temper came from the fact that he cared deeply for and had high expectations of every single member of his “family” at The Bakery.

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

From Gabriele M. Doyle | December 12, 2011

How strange to come upon this blog today — I just happened to be wondering whether Sada was still alive and ran a Google search on her, and in the process came across your blog (which is quite lovely, by the way!).

I, too, worked with Chef Louis, but not in the kitchen. I was a part-time secretary who took dictation and typed up correspondence, articles, and whatever Chef needed. This was in 1993 and continued off and on for several years. My very young daughter came with me and stayed in her playpen except for lunchtime. She thought Chef Louis was Santa Claus!

He was working on a cookbook introduction and would ask me how to word things because he wanted to keep his Hungarian style while using proper English. It could be quite a challenge at times, and was always interesting. His wife, lovely Sada, was the epitome of grace, kindness and hospitality.

Chef Louis and I had some very interesting conversations about the Austro-Hungarian empire as I had spent a college year in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He and lovely Sada will stay in my memories until I die.

Thank you for such a wonderful post.

Gabriele (“Gabi”) M. Doyle

From Joan Hartmann | December 13, 2011

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

From Sue Prahst | January 26, 2012

Sandy, thanks for the writeup on the Chef! I have his cookbook he signed for me with his legendary signature (he’d use 2 or 3 colored markers) where he made the L in Louis into a caricature of himself…the mustache, the chef hat were all drawn into the capital script L. I helped him with food prep for a tv show he was taping in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 70’s…I was only 12 or 13… he used my mom’s kitchen/stove to cook the turkey in the brown paper bag that he was going to pull from the oven on the show. Even though I was so young, he left a HUGE impression! I have used that cookbook so much that the pages are falling apart and I know it’s a treasure. Thanks for writing about him. I think part of the reason I love to try recipes, cook, etc… because of him. He was a very interesting man and larger than life… I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to have met him.

From MikeS | April 18, 2012

Hi Sandy, Thanks for posting the article about Chef Louis. He was my great-uncle. I only met him in person once but what a day! His library was massive and that was after he had given away many books. The food he cooked for us was exceedingly rich but very tasty. It’s easy to see why he shut down The Bakery, that style of food is long out of favor. I’m thinking it was easily a 2,000 calorie meal. But it was sublime food. Sada is an amazing woman and a lot of fun to be around.

From Colleen Theisen | November 20, 2012

Thank you for your wonderful article. If you want to see some of Chef Szathmáry’s collection we have digitized the handwritten cookbooks and put them online to be transcribed. You can find them here on our crowdsourcing page:
Colleen Theisen
Outreach & Instruction Librarian
Special Collections & University Archives
University of Iowa

From Andrew S. Erdelyi | December 19, 2012

I met Chef Louis in the summer of 1953 when I was a school boy trying to be a kitchen help at the Jesuit Manresa Inst. in So. Norwalk, Connecticut where he was the Head Chef cooking three meals seven days a week for 250 or so Jesuits. To my good fortune I was able to keep up the relationship right up to the time he died in 1996. My two sons spent one summer each at his The Bakery Restaurant also as kitchen help. I was fortunate to have eaten at the Chef’s restaurant twice the last being when he had his 70th birthday bash at The Bakery. Chef Louis was kind to invite my wife and I to several events at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum and a private dinner at Dartmouth. If there ever was a “Most Unforgettable Character” he was it, while being a genuine Renaissance Man. May he rest in peace.

Andrew S. Erdelyi
Merrick, NY

From Charles Bartha | December 29, 2012

Dear Madam –

Upon reading your history of Louis Szathmary and The Bakery Restaurant, I felt it appropriate to send this letter detailing several reminiscences of my time with Louis. He was a good friend since our school days in Hungary, and I am hoping you enjoy these stories as you share them with others.

It is proper that I introduce myself. My name is Károly (Kahroy, Anglicized later to Charles) Bartha (the h is silent), third grade student (14 years old) at the Reformed high-school in Sp, in the Northeastern part of Hungary. It is September of 1937. The pupils were excited to hear the news that two students were transferring: brothers, one in the first grade, the other in the fifth. (There were eight grades then).

Géza (Gayzaw), the younger was in my brother’s class and lived with us in the same dormitory. The older, Lajos, immediately acquired the nickname, Poci (Potzi, one with a pouch) because of his large size around the waist.

For the Pentecost holiday next year, we received a four-day vacation.

Because the brothers lived too far and the train fares were too costly, they decided to remain in Sarospatak. I asked them if they would like to spend the vacation with us. They accepted gladly.

We arrived in Viss (Vish), my birthplace of about 1100 residents, unannounced. My father was the school-master for the Protestant (mostly Reformed), Jewish, and Gypsy (now Romany) pupils there.

My motherly grandparents lived with us and three more brothers in the same household. Although my parents were surprised, they welcomed the boys warmly.

There was not much to do in a hamlet with unpaved roads and without electricity. Our guests fit in fine immediately. Luckily, Lajos took along his set of pastel chalks and proceeded to make an excellent portrait of my grandpa. (Louis had a copy of it in Chicago.) Next day, he painted a picture of the mountain of Tokaj (Tokawy) and another of a manually operated ferry-boat on the bend of the nearby river, Bodrog.

Géza visited our vineyard and helped with the tedious job of red currant picking.
They went to church with us, where my father was the organist. I think they had a good time with us.

During his second year in Sarospatak, Lajos became the president of the school’s Literary and Debating Society. His talent for writing surfaced shortly and was greatly appreciated by the students and the teaching staff.

After Lajos’ graduation in 1940, our paths parted. Would they ever cross again? The war was looming on the horizon.

Lajos served in the Hungarian Army, so did I. He cooked somewhere, I attended the Hungarian Royal Military Academy. He was taken POW by the Americans, I surrendered to them. I emigrated to Detroit in 1949, he followed two years later, eventually to Chicago.

Around the end of 1960, I learned through emigrant papers that a fellow Hungarian named Louis Szathmary opened a restaurant in Chicago. We dropped in unannounced for a Saturday lunch in The Bakery with our kids. We were seated, and shortly after, greeted by the Chef himself. After mutual introduction, Louis remembered me when I uttered the word, Viss. I remembered him immediately, hugging each-other. Finishing our lunch, Louis didn’t let me pay for it. Although he asked us to come back repeatedly, we did not for a while, fearing that he’ll repeat the hustle over the pay. A few years later Louis invited us to a Hungarian gathering, for some cultural event. We accepted, and went back several times afterwards.

Approaching my retirement, Louis asked me if I would help him in his library. Having nothing else to do, I gladly accepted his invitation. A few years later, I began to work for him.

Arriving at The Bakery around noon, Louis introduced me to his “crew”.

I knew Sada from earlier meetings, a pleasant, gracious lady indeed. Next came Barbara, the chief-steward carrying a huge string of keys, who later behaved as if she owned the place; then Laci (Lawtzi), Louis’ personal driver and general factotum, fixer of everything; Pista (Pishtaw), the creator of tortes and other sweets, and preparer of the wondrous Beef of Wellington. Sadly, I cannot recall the names of those who were present at that long table.

Later, Sada told me that she spent an entire summer in Sarospatak where her husband attended high-school, with teenagers from all over the globe to learn Hungarian. To my surprise, her Hungarian was adequate for an everyday conversation.

Four-five (maybe ten) years ago, I read an article about Barbara in a magazine. I thought her last name was Koch (with guttural ch), I might be wrong. She was referred to in the article as the daughter of Louis Szathmary. (Hence her chip on the shoulder attitude?) Indeed, Louis created a position to her as curator—with plenty of stipend—to the Culinary Museum of the Johnson & Wales University.

My first night at The Bakery was uneventful, sort of. I was assigned temporarily to the living quarters of Louis’ departed mother. Before going to sleep, I looked around for something to read.

There was a long shelf above the bed, holding about twenty large books of the same size. To my surprise, all of them dealt with cannibalism, a definitely different and—luckily—a dying-out way of food preparation and consumption.

Who collected them and for what reason, I never asked. It was, in my opinion, a minuscule part of Louis’ collection of cook-books, numbering a few thousand.
Somehow, I didn’t read much that evening. Everyone to his taste.

After a sumptuous lunch, Louis showed me his cook-book collection. I found it immense, rather unorganized, noticing several duplicate copies. Louis told me that I’ll have nothing to do with these. His working area, the den of a genius, was a “mess”—a rather mild description— which nobody was allowed to touch.

My real job was to weed out duplicate copies, called “duplum”, (sic) in the literature part of his library and to arrange the books for dissemination. Louis asked me to leave alone his Transylvanian collection, housed in a separate room, and his private collection in his living quarters. For the next few weeks (year and a half, to be exact), I spent 5 to 6 hours a day on ladders, from noon on Tuesdays to noon on Fridays.

If I ran across books with interesting illustrations, such as wood- or linoleum-cuts, I put them aside. After the early evening meal, Louis looked them over, creating several piles to be given to his friends. Around eight o’clock, I had a call from Louis occasionally. If there were few guests that evening, he would ask me to join him while he ate his dinner. (I normally declined to eat again.)

Looking around, he would get up to greet the guests, returning to finish up his meal with a cordial.

It is difficult, if not impossible to break a habit—such as collecting books—especially if the “store” rolls up to your doorsteps. Although Louis slowed down near the end of his life, he loved to visit an adventurous Hungarian refugee’s truck, loaded with anything Hungarian, including recently released books. Sausages in one hand and 4-5 books under his arm, I encountered Louis at the back door.
Asking him what he purchased, he sheepishly confessed the sausages, but not the books, of which he already had several examples. I returned the books, telling the fellow to sell Louis only newly acquired printed material.

And, finally, I feel I owe Louis the following:

Besides dividing and donating his library to several universities in the USA, Louis also remembered his alma mater in Sarospatak. He sent his Kossuth collection there, not only books and letters, but also memorabilia.

(Louis Kossuth (Koshut, o as in or, h being silent) Regent-President in 1848-49, belonged to the Hungarian lower nobility, so did Louis. Kossuth attended the High-school in Sarospatak for a while, so did Louis. Both were fierce Habsburg foes and pro-democracy fighters, and both were Protestants. Hence the affinity, in my opinion, between the two patriots.)

Louis asked me to assure that his collection arrived safely on my next trip to Hungary. Naturally, I complied, taking numerous pictures of an as-yet unorganized collection.

Louis also sent huge pallets of émigré newspapers and several hundred books to join his Kossuth collection. This was the time I left The Bakery.

One of my brothers told me recently, that Louis’ presents were neatly arranged in a separate room, in a building adjacent to the main library.

At the main entrance to the high-school, there is a marble memorial plaque for the school’s famous professors and pupils. Louis’ name is on it, as the last entry (for the time being).

The grateful citizens of Sarospatak also arranged a special room commemorating Louis and his deeds, in a manor-house near to their 14th century famous fortress.
May you rest in peace, Lajoskám!
Charles Bartha

May l add the correct Hungarian pronunciation of Chef Louis’ name:
Sz az in s(ee),
a as in (m)a(ll),
th t is the same, the h being silent,
m same,
á as in a(re),
r same, somewhat rolled,
y as in i(n).

The accent is on the words first syllable, as you noted correctly.

His given name was Lajos, pronounced approximately: Lawyosh.

His former full name is, with Hungarian hyphenation: Szath-má-ry La-jos. Yes, family name first, with no comma between the two names.

I called him often by his affectionate name: Lajoskám, my “little” Lajos.
Fredricka Reisman | March 12, 2013

While attending a mathematics education conference in Chicago around 1972, I gathered
several colleagues from Syracuse University including my Ph.D. committee chair and the University of Georgia where I was on faculty and my 17 year-old gourmet cook daughter and cabbed it from the Conrad Hilton to The Bakery. Chef Szathmary personnally guided our menu decisions and autographed The Chef’s Secret Cookbook to my daughter: “To Lisa with my best wishes” followed by his unique signature embedded in his drawing of a chef’s hat. Lisa and the chef somehow got talking about his special meat thermometer (to not leave in during cooking was unheard of) and she was thrilled with her new culinary acquisition. The next year Lisa and I had occasion to return to the Bakery and the Chef remembered us. Lisa and I often remembered our lovely experiences at The Bakery as recently as a few months before I lost her this past June after a 10-year courageous battle with cancer. She ended up following her dream of having her own art gallery and creative website ( which her clients referred to as a jewel in Philadelphia. I am using the Chef’s rib roast and Chef’s Salt recipes this Saturday for Lisa’s elder son’s 31st birthday dinner.

From Marie | August 13, 2013 (This turned out to be the most important email I received about Chef Szathmary):

Hi all, I ran across this site while doing some research on Chef Louis Szathmary. My husband and I buy estates, foreclosure cleanouts, auctions etc. and recently made a purchase of over 300 boxes. I was floored to learn that this is the partial estate of Chef Louis and am in awe at the contents. So much so that I have begun to research him and his professional life. Which is something I have NEVER been intrigued enough to do with any estate purchase we have made. I’m not sure what I will do with all his belongings, but learning about him will help me decide!

From Sandy | August 13, 2013 OMG I almost fell off my typing chair. What a FIND! This must be from the second collection he started after he donated a lot of his collection to the University of Iowa and a much greater part of his original collection to the Johnson university (not sure of the exact information–I will have to look at my original notes again. ps – it was Johnson & Wales University. They probably have the largest collection of Szathmary at this time.

From Marie Smit | August 13, 2013

Yes a very surprising find for sure! Yea, we buy to resell so likely Ebay. Maybe locally since we are in the Chicago area as was the Chef.So there may be fans of his still around. I have gotten conflicting information from the research I have done on whether or not “The Bakery” was closed or sold. Do you happen to know? You are welcome to first crack at what we have. Just let me know what you are interested in because it is VERY diverse! Tons of signed menus, recipes, cookbooks, paintings (yes he was an artist too!), books, pictures, letters, photos, cooking utensils, Hungarian linens, his granite prep table from 1908! And lots lots more…..

from Sandy | August 13, 2013

Hello again, Marie – well just for starters you may get some responses from the people who have written to me, over time, about Chef Szathmary. I am fairly certain that the Bakery closed down. I knew he was artistic; I have one of his cookbooks that is signed with his comic drawing signature. If I were in your shoes (well, if I WERE in your shoes I wouldn’t be selling anything) – but as someone who makes a living on estate sales or foreclosures–I would put it into some kind of order and bundle groups of items–then put it on ebay. How to determine what things are worth? That I don’t know. Personally, I collect cookbooks, recipes, and some Hungarian items (my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family came from Budapest) – I would love to get my hands on that granite prep table but don’t see any easy way of buying it or getting it shipped to California. I would love to get some of the signed menus as well – OMG, what a FIND. I’m thinking his wife must have finally passed away and I don’t believe he had any children. Sometime ago, one of the people who read my blog post was someone who knew Szathmary when they were boys in Hungary–if I can find that letter (it should be amongst the responses I’ve received on this blog) – he wrote a lengthy message to me and he might be someone who would also have a better idea what the collection is worth. when you are prepared to sell some of these things, will you contact me?
I could never have imagined, when I wrote a blog post about Szathmary, the direction that post would take. thanks for writing! I’m absolutely thrilled for you. would also suggest, whatever you feel can’t sell on ebay, you might donate it to Johnson & Wales to go with what Szathmary donated to them some years ago. best wishes, Sandy

From | January 8, 2014

Hey Sandy! I’ve been looking for info on the meat thermometer he recommended (someone broke mine) and I haven’t been able to find one on line. It’s a La Pine, made in Switzerland. Any chance the people doing the inventorying might have access to the form he gave to order????? Thanks if so!!

From Sandy | January 9, 2014 Dear J Hartmann:

You are a few weeks too late with this request; Marie, the woman who bought all of the Szathmary books, memorabilia, etc, sold everything to the University of Iowa–which already had a collection of his books, that Szathmary had donated to them years ago. Someone at the University of Iowa saw my blog update in which Marie told me how she had acquired all of Szathmary’s collections–and they contacted her & made her “an offer she couldn’t refuse” – You COULD try writing to the University of Iowa and ask them if they have such a form.

And finally – this email:

Farrow Tamburo | December 9, 2015 a Today I Googled “Fat Uncle Louie, Hungarian Chef”. Louie Szathmary was my Great Great Uncle. I came across your blog and I read it aloud to my mother, who once, had me and my brother bake cookies to send to Uncle Louie and his wife Sada. Apparently we were too clean for kids and threw flour on us for a picture she sent along. I never got to meet them but because of your wonderful article I now, know more of my family history! Thank you so Much it made me and my family’s day. -Farrow


*I have to add just one more comment to this article about Chef Louis Szathmary; call me crazy but when I was writing about Chef Louis—and then continued to receive emails about him culminating in a woman named Marie finding me and then selling everything she had found to the University of Iowa—I have felt like the great Chef was looking over my shoulder, nodding approval at what I was able to play a part in the salvation of his many books and collections. Rest in Peace Chef Szathmary!

–Sandra Lee Smith


Originally posted on April 29, 2011 |

The story about Harry Baker and his famous chiffon cake is the kind of stuff on which legends are built and numerous references can be found in food reference books. According to the legend, the chiffon cake was invented in 1927 by Harry Baker, a California insurance salesman turned caterer. Mr. Baker kept the recipe a secret for 20 years, until he sold it to General Mills for an undisclosed amount of money. At this point the name was changed to “chiffon cake” and was released with a set of 14 recipes and variations in a Betty Crocker pamphlet published in 1948. (I checked the chiffon cake recipes in a 50s Betty Crocker cookbook—they came up with a lot of variations!)

But wait! That’s only part of the story!

Yes, a man named Harry Baker did create a chiffon cake that he sold to places like the Brown Derby which had a simple menu in its earliest years. The first dessert to be sold at the Derby was Harry Baker’s cake which was made by Mr. Baker and sold to the restaurant and to other Hollywood notables for their parties. The Brown Derby cookbook published in 1949 provides a brief explanation for the cake but also offers, in its chapter on Desserts, the Basic Chiffon cake recipe, along with recipes for orange chiffon, chocolate chiffon and walnut chiffon cakes. The pamphlet featuring chiffon cake recipes from Betty Crocker also featured Wesson Oil. The pamphlet offers recipes for Golden Chiffon Cake, Fresh Orange Chiffon Cake, Maple Nut Chiffon and Pineapple Chiffon – and even Spicy Chiffon Cake. For those who remember when a leaflet of recipes with some premium offers (General Mills Tru-Heat Iron, Scranton Lace Dinner Cloth) could be found in every bag of Gold Medal Flour, might also have found a leaflet for making Sunny Orange Chiffon Cake.

My question is—WAS the chiffon cake an original idea? Maybe–maybe not.

And before I go any further, I want to mention that—I had never heard of chiffon cake in the 1950s. My introduction to chiffon cake came through the pages of my manuscript cookbook, Helen’s cookbook, that I have written about before on my blog. Written in real India ink and in fine penmanship, Helen wrote at the top of the page “Harry Bakers Secret Ingredient “X” cake”—and underneath that, “Orange Chiffon Cake”. Helen’s handwritten cookbook was started in the 1920s and continued through the 50s and perhaps into the early 60s and she lived in Los Angeles, so she certainly would have been aware of Harry Baker’s cake. Honestly – I was learning to cook in the early 1950s – and chiffon cake was never on my radar.

The website, The Old Foodie, in a post dated March 25, 2011, provided a recipe for Apricot Chiffon Cake, from a South Carolina newspaper dated 1934 (certainly years before Harry sold his cake to General Mills). Another recipe, from a 1947 Nevada newspaper, is a Velvet Chiffon Cake. Which begs the question, of course, how much digging must we do to find out exactly how far back the concept of a chiffon cake might go. According to a Gold Medal Jubilee recipe pamphlet published in 1955, (and noted in “Fashionable Food/Seven Decades of Food Fads” by Sylvia Lovegren) “light and airy chiffon pies were popular under the name of ‘sissy pies’ in the early 1900s. These sissy pies were also called fairy tarts or fluff, sponge or soufflé pies—were based on variously flavored puddings, lightened with beaten egg whites, that were then baked in a pastry crust. They contained no gelatin, the common ingredient of the modern unbaked chiffon pie…” Lovegren writes that the first mention she was able to find of a chiffon pie as we know it, made with gelatin and uncooked beaten egg whites, appeared under the name of coffee soufflé pie in Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries from 1922. Writes Lovegren, “Gelatin and egg white-lightened chiffon pies, which were basically old-fashioned gelatin sponges or “snows” served in a crust—became all the rage in the forties. They were so popular that they rated a separate section in the 1943 edition of Joy of Cooking…virtually any flavor you could come up with went into these confections. Chiffon pie also helped usher in the era of the crumb pie shell based on crushed graham crackers or breakfast cereal…”
Patricia Bunning Stevens, in a fascinating little book titled “RARE BITS” provides an assortment of recipes and unusual origins and traces the word “chiffon”—which to the French simply meant “rags.” Eventually the meaning was extended to scraps of lace and ribbon, pretty things a lady might use in her needlework and store in her “chiffoniere”, a small chest of drawers. In the 19th century on both sides of the English Channel, chiffons were dress trimmings of every sort that loaded down Victorian gowns.

As the turn of the century approached, the meaning of chiffon changed again as the English referred to a type of fabric. In the 1920s, silk chiffon became the rage in the USA and eventually gave its name to chiffon pie. Per Stevens, chiffon pie was the first really new pie of the 20th century. It is said to have been the brainchild of a professional baker who, at his mother’s suggestion, named it for the filmy floating fabric popular at the time. Meantime, in France, chefs began to make chiffonades, vegetables shredded into fine strips to resemble rags used to garnish consomme. (maybe something we would consider “julienned” today).


In an article titled “When Harry Met Betty” author Joseph Hart writes, “One of life’s great truths…is that beneath its surface lies complexity. Our beloved fictions of heroes and villains crumble with scrutiny, leaving only convolution, shifting meanings, and unstable realities. The same is true of things. Even the simplest object has its hidden history of longing, love, and despair. Take, for example, cake. Chiffon cake…”

Hart continues, “Ask someone who lived through the 1950s, to name the icons of that era, and chances are that—along with the ’57 Chevy, Lucy and Ricky, and the cul-de-sac rambler—chiffon cake will make their list. The recipe was introduced by General Mills in 1948 with a major marketing blitz that featured Betty Crocker, another 1950s icon…With Betty’s help, chiffon became a nationwide sensation. Billed as “the first really new cake in a hundred years,” thanks to its “mystery ingredient,” chiffon was light and fluffy like angel food cake, yet also rich and moist like butter cake, and it rapidly became a favorite of housewives from Syracuse to Oceanside…”

The real mystery, says Hart, “Lurking beneath its lemony glaze is not a secret ingredient, but the secret life of its reclusive inventor: the appropriately named Harry Baker…”

Hart continues, “The shorthand version of his history, repeated in a thousand cookbooks, notes that the insurance-salesman-turned-baker invented the cake in Los Angeles in 1927. He baked his chiffon cakes in his apartment kitchen in the Windsor Square neighborhood and sold them to the glamorous Brown Derby restaurant, where they pleased the palates of Hollywood’s studio stars. In 1947, Baker sold his closely guarded recipe to General Mills for an undisclosed sum—‘because,’ as one General Mills publication quotes him, ‘I wanted Betty Crocker to give the secret to the women of America.’”

Hart continues to delve deep into the life of Harry Baker and for the whole story, refer to “When Harry Met Betty” by Joseph Hart, posted on on January 29, 2007. The story behind the creator of chiffon cake is interesting but not uppermost in my mind right now.

Says Hart, although it was wildly popular in the 1950s, the chiffon cake had been figuratively gathering dust for decades by the time he discovered the recipe in the late 1990s. Hart writes that while browsing in a 1956* edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, he stumbled upon the recipe for chiffon.

Sandy’s Cooknote: *Betty Crocker’s 1956 edition of the Picture Cook Book notwithstanding, I found the recipe for Chiffon Cake – accompanied by a myriad of variations – in my 1950 limited first edition of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. In addition to the basic chiffon cake recipe, you will find maple pecan chiffon, butterscotch chiffon, pineapple chiffon, chocolate chip chiffon—and even a Holiday Fruit Chiffon that contains finely chopped candied cherries, finely chopped pecans and some very finely chopped citron.

Hart writes that HIS Betty still falls open to the creased and batter-spattered pages with the step-by-step directions for chiffon cake because, symbolism aside, it makes a truly splendid dessert.

Before chiffon, Hart explains, “there had been but two types of cake. Foam cakes, like angel food, contain no shortening and rely on eggs for leavening, while butter cakes rise with baking powder. Chiffon combines the two, relying on both eggs and baking powder and the clincher, add Harry Baker’s secret ingredient – vegetable oil (or, as it was called in those days, ‘salad oil’—another General Mills product as it happens)….”

Hart says he had been an enthusiastic baker of the cake for some time when one day, as he was going through back issues of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, he happened to come across an article about chiffon by food writer and Joy of Cooking contributor Stephen Schmidt. If, says Hart, you’ve read Cook’s Illustrated, you already know that Schmidt tinkered exhaustively with the original Betty Crocker recipe to end up with something a little better. Hart says he sticks with the original.

But what caught Hart’s eye was a sidebar article about Harry Baker, repeating the standard biography, insurance salesman, 1927 discovery, service to the stars…but Schmidt had uncovered some new details; for one thing, he noted that Baker during his Hollywood heyday, shared his apartment “with his aging mother” And the sale of the recipe to General Mills took on a new twist in Schmidt’s telling: ‘Having been evicted from his apartment, and fearing memory loss, the usually reclusive Baker trekked uninvited to Minneapolis to sell his recipe,’ he wrote. This information hinted at a story so Hart spent the next five years chasing the elusive Hollywood inventor of his beloved chiffon cake.

Harry Baker arrived in Hollywood in 1923 and began to tinker with cake recipes. Until Joseph Hart’s in depth research, I don’t think anyone knew where Harry came from or what brought him to Southern California (or—maybe no one cared). Baker worked diligently, creating over 400 variations of an angel food cake, trying to create a moister sweeter angel food cake. Nothing satisfied him until he thought to add some salad oil to his recipe. Years later he would tell a reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune that the addition of the salad oil was “a sixth sense, something cosmic” – at any rate, a new Hollywood star was born.

At the same time Harry Baker was treating his neighbors to experimental cakes, another kind of star was being born on Wilshire Blvd. The Brown Derby opened for business in 1926 in a building shaped to go with the name*

*Sandy’s cooknote: I visited the Brown Derby once, in 1961, with a girlfriend and my mother in law—it was a wonderful experience. The walls, I recall, were plastered with framed photographs of many famous movie stars (but then, you can visit almost any place in Burbank—Bob’s Big Boy, the dry cleaners, the shoe repair shop –and you will find framed photographs of movie stars on their walls. It’s a kind of happening thing in greater Los Angeles).

By what Harry Baker might have described as another cosmic twist, two years later he walked into the Brown Derby with a sample of his cake. It became one of the Derby’s signature dishes and as mentioned before, (per the Brown Derby Cook Book) for quite some time it was the ONLY dessert served at the Brown Derby. One of the most popular desserts at the Derby was Harry Baker’s grapefruit chiffon cake** which, according to its creator, he made especially for Hollywood gossip columnist Luella Parsons. “Louella was overweight and she held weekly staff meetings at the Derby,” he explained. “She threatened to move her meeting if they didn’t come up with a less fattening dessert. She told them ‘put grapefruit on something. Everyone knows that grapefruit is less fattening…”

**Sandy’s cooknote see the Grapefruit Chiffon Cake recipe at the end of this article.

Harry Baker’s fortunes rose with the Derby and he began receiving requests for cakes from famous actresses such as Barbara Stanwyck and Dolores del Rio, to be served at their parties. Throughout the 1930s, Baker’s cake reputation spread far and wide and orders came in faster than he could fill them. He mixed batter for each cake individually and baked them separately using twelve tin hot plate ovens set up in a spare bedroom. Finished cakes cooled on the porch where customers retrieved them leaving $2.00 payment in the mail slot. At the height of his business, Baker produced 42 cakes in an 18 hour day from which he grossed in equivalent, in today’s dollars, about $900.00. Joseph Hart began researching the life of Harry Baker and in 2003 wrote a short article for the Larchmont Chronicle, a newspaper that served the Hollywood neighborhood where Harry Baker had lived.

This in turn led eventually to more leads about the life of the elusive Harry Baker. After he sold his recipe to General Mills—the exact amount was kept secret—Harry Baker slipped away from public life. There was speculation about his whereabouts; Hart found, however, a death record for September 27, 1974, at the age of 91, Harry Baker suffered heart failure at the California Convalescent Center in Los Angeles. So, perhaps he never ventured very far from the Hollywood that had given him such a good life in return.

Sandy’s cooknote: For more information about Harry Baker, please DO read Joseph Hart’s in depth article, “When Harry Met Betty” which can be found on, posted 1/29/07 if it is still listed online.
** The Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake is not included in the 1949 edition of the Brown Derby Cookbook. However, I DID find the recipe in the Brown Derby Cookbook 50th Anniversary Edition published in 1976, noting it is not called “chiffon”. Here, then, is The BROWN DERBY GRAPEFRUIT CAKE.

To make the Brown Derby Grapefruit cake you will need:

1½ CUPS sifted cake flour**
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, separated
3 TBSP grapefruit juice
½ tsp grated lemon rind
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice and lemon rind. Beat until very smooth. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. DO NOT STIR MIXTURE. Pour into an ungreased pan*. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched with finger. Invert pan on cake rack until cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With a serrated knife, gently cut layer in half.


12 ounces cream cheese (1½ package of 8 ounce size cream cheese)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 to 8 drops yellow food coloring
1 lb can grapefruit sections, well drained*

Let cream cheese come to room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice and rind. Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until well blended. Add food coloring. Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 teaspoons. Blend into frosting. Spread frosting on bottom half of cake. Top with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer. Frost top and sides; garnish with remaining grapefruit sections.

*Sandy’s cooknote Can you even buy grapefruit in a can? I’m fairly certain that the only grapefruit sections I have seen in my supermarket are in a jar.

**Sandy’s cooknote: Don’t have any cake flour? To convert regular flour into cake flour: Measure out the all purpose flour that you will need for your recipe. This recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of cake flour. Measure 1 ½ cups of regular flour. For every cup of flour, remove two tablespoons of flour. For this recipe, remove three tablespoons of flour (put it back into the flour canister). Put remaining flour into a sifter set over a bowl. Replace the three tablespoons of flour with three tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift and sift the flour and cornstarch about five times. You now have cake flour.

To make Meta Given’s Golden Feather Cake you will need:

1 2/3 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
¾ tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk

Sift flour, measure and resift 3 times with baking powder and salt. Cream shortening until smooth and soft. Blend in ¾ cup of the sugar. Add beaten egg yolks and beat until smooth and fluffy. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk in alternate portions, beginning and ending with flour and beating until smooth after each addition. Beat egg whites until just stiff: add remaining sugar gradually and continue beating until very stiff. Fold lightly but thoroughly into batter. Turn into two 8” pans which have been buttered and lined with waxed paper in the bottom. Bake in a moderate 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake is springy when touched with finger tips. Turn out on cake coolers (racks) and cool before removing waxed paper. Spread any desired frosting or broken up jelly between layers and on top and sides of cake. Makes10 servings.


Set out but do not grease a 10” tube (angel food cake) pan
Sift together in a mixing bowl:
2¼ cups sifted cake flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in order given:
½ cup cooking oil
5 egg yolks, unbeaten
¾ cup orange juice
3 TBSP grated orange rind
Beat with a spoon until smooth. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl mix together:
1 cup egg whites (7 or 8 eggs)
½ tsp cream of tartar

Beat the egg white mixture at high speed until very stiff peaks form. Pour egg yolk mixture gradually over whipped whites, gently folding with rubber scraper just until blended. Pour into ungreased tube cake pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. When cake tests done, remove from oven, invert and let hang upside down until cold.

Sandy’s cooknote: I keep a bottle on hand to put my angel food cakes on after they are baked. A wine bottle is usually the right size.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you the chiffon cake recipe sent to me by my niece Stephanie, who has perfected a coconut chiffon cake. Here, then, is Stephanie’s recipe exactly as directed:


By Stephanie Swetland

2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, divided (I use silk coconut vanilla milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
My addition:
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 large egg whites
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 fresh coconut

I also used some cream of coconut when building the cake (you will see how at the bottom) It’s the kind you get near where the ingredients for mixed drinks is sold.
To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8″ cake pans. Set aside. In small bowl beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and continue to beat for 1 minute. In a medium bowl sift the remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil and 1/2 cup of the milk. Beat for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, and vanilla (this is also where I add the coconut extract.) Beat 1 more minute. (I found that you really need to scrape the bowl down and beat a little more to make sure you get to the bottom of the bowl when scraping.) After it is thoroughly mixed, add the egg whites and gently fold in.

Divide the batter among the 3 pans (it’s about 2 cups each pan). Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and place on wax paper to continue to cool (they are kind of sticky cakes and very light. I put them directly onto my cooling racks and they stick a bit so it is best to use waxed paper.) Allow the cakes to cool completely.

To Make the Icing:

In a large saucepan mix the sugar, water, and light corn syrup together. Place over medium heat and cook until a soft ball forms, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a temp of 238 degrees. This should take 4-6 minutes.
While the sugar mixture cooks, add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat till soft peaks form. When the sugar mixture has reached the desired temp, with the mixer running at a medium speed, gradually add sugar mixture to egg whites.
Continue to beat until all the syrup is incorporated into the egg whites. Continue to mix for 6-8 minutes until the icing is creamy and soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and mix for 1 minute.

Here’s the hard part

Pierce the eye of the coconut with an ice pick and drain the coconut water into a small bowl. I do not have an ice pick so I used the drill and drilled out 2 of the eyes and poured the water out.

Crack the coconut shell, pry out the meat, and peel with a vegetable peeler. I did not know how to crack open the shell so I went out to the back porch and threw it against the concrete*. It worked, then it took a lot of work and pulling and prying to get the meat out and to peel the coconut. I DO NOT recommend using your vegetable peeler, I completely dulled mine by doing this Just use a knife to get the peel off and then put it in your food processor and grind it up till it’s fine.

Sandy’s cooknote *to make the job a little easier, try putting the coconut inside two plastic bags before cracking it against the concrete.

To assemble the cake:
Place one layer on the cake plate. prick the layers with a fork and drizzle 1/3 of the coconut water over the layer (this is where I also drizzle a bit of the cream of coconut over); place 1/3 of the icing on the first layer and frost the top and sides, sprinkle 1/3 of the grated coconut over the icing, repeat the layers until finished. I made sure to have enough coconut to cover top and sides with it. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Stephanie says this cake is a lot of work but oh-so-worth it!

My only final question is – did Harry Baker name his cake “chiffon” or was that the idea of someone at General Mills? – Maybe—maybe not!

Happy Cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting!

–Sandra Lee Smith


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Here, then, is Spaghetti Gravy:

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

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

ITALIAN SWISS STEAK (Bistecca Alla Italiano Svizzero)

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

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

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

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

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

AUNT JOEY’S RICE VERDE preheat oven 350 degrees


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

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

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

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

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

*Aunt Olive was Uncle Bob’s Aunt.

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

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

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



The following was written–and posted–in 2011; since then I have added more full size aprons to my collection and aprons are just as hot four years later as they were in 2011.

A few years ago, a girlfriend and I were in an antique store when I came across a “vintage” bib apron, perhaps 1940s, – and fell in love.
“Could you make something like this for me?” I asked my girlfriend, who sews (I don’t sew. I cook. We can’t all do everything!)

She said she could, and she did–and now I have three of these big aprons, with big roomy pockets and I am seldom without one.
I found myself re-discovering aprons and wondering why, when you watch the chefs on the Food Network – none of them ever wears an apron! (I have ruined many a blouse or dress from cooking sans an apron–but these days you’ll seldom find me without one).

The aprons of my childhood bring to mind the voluminous ones worn by my Grandma Schmidt, who was as round as she was tall. Her dresses reached her ankles and her aprons were equally long and wide with huge pockets. I discovered, a few years ago, how handy aprons with pockets are when you go out to check the tomatoes in the garden and find yourself with handfuls of ripe tomatoes and no basket to put them into. The apron pockets work well. I also fill the pockets with clothespins when I am hanging linens or sheets on the clothesline. (Yes, some of us do still hang things on the line-but that’s another story).

Years ago, people didn’t have wardrobes the size of ours, today–and aprons, which could be easily washed, protected good dresses which might not have all been washable (never mind that everything had to be ironed too–perma-press hadn’t been invented yet) . I think the only times I ever saw Grandma without an apron were when she was going downtown (plus hat, dressy shoes, her handbag, and stockings) or to church. My mother also wore aprons but most of the ones in which she was photographed, were the half-size aprons. I, myself, need a bib apron because the spills and splashes usually land somewhere on my chest.

Aprons have a respectably long history, too – the earliest mention of an apron is in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and fashioned aprons from fig leaves. In the middle ages aprons became especially well known, as European craftsmen wore aprons as part of their everyday garments–old paintings of blacksmiths invariably picture them wearing a big old leather apron of some kind. I remember, as a child, the big white (well, originally it was white) aprons worn by the butcher in the butcher shops where my grandma went to buy a chicken or a cut of beef. There are also aprons used by carpenters which have many pockets to hold necessary tools. (hmmm, I think I would like to have one like that).

The apron worn in the kitchen was a fixture for more than a century, until the late 1970s–when it seems to have disappeared from our culinary landscape. Perhaps it has something to do with the perfect housewife image portrayed by the fifties–you know, “Father knows Best” and mother is always pictured wearing an apron with a wooden spatula in one hand, standing over the stove (Shades of Ozzie and Harriet?) Then women became liberated and burned not only their bras but also their aprons.

I always had a few aprons but they had been relegated to a seldom used linen drawer. Now, I have aprons within easy reach on several hangers on doors in the kitchen and I am not in the least embarrassed to be seen wearing one. (Some of them are really quite stylish, I think – and I love the pockets. Along with clothespins and Kleenex, I am usually carrying around my cell phone and digital camera).

For Christmas, my penpal/friend/and computer guru, Wendy, sent me two wonderful very retro looking aprons. Then my penpal Bev brought me a neat apron that she bought on a recent trip to Alaska – it has chocolate moose all over the print – and the her daughter brought me a new very-valentine-ish apron when she visited. Four new aprons in one year…can life get any better than this?

And not long ago I discovered a really great website dedicated to aprons after it was written about in the Los Angeles Times. Everything old is new again! I love it.

I am still mystified, however – how do all those people on the Food Network manage to cook entire meals (without wearing an apron) and without getting any of it on themselves?

If you Google “aprons” you will find a whole lot more websites devoted to this topic!

Happy cooking!



In my last home, the Arleta house where Bob and I lived for nineteen years, we had a walk-in pantry off the laundry room. Originally, it had ceiling to floor shelves on the left side with a few shelves on the right that were large enough for storing small appliances. When Bob and I moved into the Arleta house in 1989, I pointed out how much more efficient the pantry would be with shelves on the right from top to bottom – with maybe a few across the back for good measure. I wish I had photographed that pantry after Bob added all the shelves. It was a kitchen-lovers-ideal pantry.

There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of cupboard shelves in that kitchen – enough for dishes and pots and pans with a small cupboard dividing the kitchen from the eating area ideal for glassware. Another small cupboard above that cupboard with the glassware was ideal for medicines—out of the reach of children, especially.

I loved that kitchen. When Jim and I first moved into the Arleta house in 1974, my girlfriend, Rosalia, made lovely gingham curtains for the kitchen. A camellia bush was right outside the front windows, enough to see out but no one could see in. (and the house sat a good ways back from the street). Out of all the places in which we lived throughout 26 years of marriage, my favorite was the Arleta house, owned by a girlfriend of mine.

I also loved that pantry – and I thoroughly enjoyed keeping it packed. It was during the 70s that we acquired some Latter Day Saint (Mormon) friends and I was intrigued by their belief of keeping a year’s worth of bottle water and staples on hand, in case of an emergency. Well, my then-husband, Jim, was self-employed with business precarious throughout most of our marriage. I was a stay at home mom for 12 years, returning to work full time in 1977—and when only one of you has a steady income, you have to be able to create meals out of almost anything – or almost nothing. We frequently had spaghetti—so often that one of my sons won’t eat it at all today. (and I couldn’t tell you the last time I cooked spaghetti for myself) – but back then, I kept as much dry spaghetti as would fit inside a large potato chip can. I also kept boxes of macaroni and cheese on hand (something growing boys would always eat).

When canned vegetables were on sale, I bought as many as I could fit on two of the pantry shelves. Sugar, flour, brown and granulated sugars, pancake mix and Bisquick are kept in large Tupperware storage containers.

My daughter in law and I were talking recently about an obsession she and I share – keeping pantry shelves well-stocked; we think it may have something to do with our childhood experiences of never feeling like there was enough to eat. My mother fed six of us with one can of peas, spinach—whatever.

For years, I wondered why my mother cooked almost no fresh vegetables—even the spinach was from a can The only vegetables I can remember my mother cooking were potatoes, carrots, some onion, sometimes celery—even peas were from a can.

The only kind of salmon we ever had came out of a can (and we all loved salmon patties) and there was the nefarious cabbage that my mother put on to cook around 9 am for dinner at 6 pm. I grew up thinking I HATED cabbage, beets, and rice—only to discover years later in California that it wasn’t the cabbage, beets or rice that I loathed – it was the way my mother cooked these things, cooking them all day long (mind you, crockpots hadn’t come along yet). I was an adult living in California before I discovered I LIKE rice – we called my mother’s rice “library paste rice” My brother Bill is the only person I know who likes the library paste rice.

It was a March St Patrick’s Day years later that I discovered how great Corned Beef and Cabbage is. And both my sister Becky and I loved canned peas cooked in a creamy white sauce ala Viola. It was one of the few things my mother cooked that we liked.

When my cousin, Renee, gave me the cookbook that had belonged to our maternal grandmother, I had an inkling of an understanding why my mother cooked everything to death—very old cookbooks advised cooking canned foods to beyond recognition—this reference to “canned” meant home-canned-foods. If you can vegetables, a good long boil will prevent you from getting botulism, in case there are any botulism toxin in the jar.

The cookbook author wasn’t referring to manufactured canned goods—but just as my maternal grandmother would have boiled things to death, so did my mother. And although I do a considerable amount of home canning, I don’t can anything low acid – I only can foods that can be put into a boiling water bath, rather than a pressure cooker.

And I will be the first to admit that frozen vegetables are always a great addition to a meal—I keep several boxes of frozen spinach on hand in my freezer…it isn’t something actually coming from the pantry, but frozen vegetables, poultry and ground beef are a part of the packed pantry.

If you want to keep a packed pantry, I suggest stocking up on various vegetables or even fruits, different kinds of pasta, even some cans of chicken and salmon to have on hand in an emergency. Stock up on sales of tomato sauce or tomato paste, cans of diced chilies. I have lived for years in areas where dry beans of all kinds are easily available and (key word) inexpensive. Pack your pantry with the kinds of staples that you, your significant other, and any children still living at home – will readily eat. Don’t buy any canned foods that are dented – it’s too risky and not worth buying, even on sale.

I also stock up on boxed cake mixes when they are on sale—for which I am pleased, because a) cake mixes have been considerably reduced in size by the manufacturers and b) the prices have skyrocketed in recent months—but a thought about storing items like cake mixes – I have two large plastic bins with tight fitting lids in my laundry room/pantry that hold a lot of cake mixes, as well as flour and sugar. I also have all these recipes for making cookies out of cake mixes and I haven’t played around with my recipes enough to know what changes we may need to make with a boxed cake mix. I will get back to you on what changes we may need to make with those stream-lined cookie recipes. If you have attempted cookie making with cake mixes since the sizes have been reduced, let me hear from you!

Related reading: BAD FOOD, February 2011
CITY FARMERS November 2012

–Sandra Lee Smith