all about old cookbooks, what they’re worth, general information


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandy @ sandychatter


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!



This is a rewrite of a previously posted article.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!


Many cookbooks–all worthy of my attention–are stacked alongside the computer, and I have neglected them simply because I haven’t been able to get WORD to work properly. For the past few weeks, I have been struggling to work without WORD. Then I wondered if I could type a draft on Verizon, like an email message. Why not?

One of the books that particularly captivated me is titled is GYPSY FEAST, Recipes and Culinary Traditions of the Romany People, by Carol Wilson. (Then, today, my daughter in law came to change my ink cartridges – and SHE figured out how to open a clean page in WORD for me! Voila!!)

I have good reason to be fascinated with Gypsy Feast; my older brother has often speculated that we had gypsy blood. Our paternal grandmother, Susannah Gengler Schmidt, liked nothing more than spending a Sunday aboard a street car, later a bus, with a twenty-five sent Sunday pass, to explore downtown Cincinnati–and given the opportunity to go on an annual vacation with her daughter, our Aunt Annie, and Annie’s husband Al, to Florida–and I think she was with us whenever the family took a vacation—which wasn’t often–and the car was crowded with my two parents, me, my older sister Becky, two younger brothers Biff & Bill–and Grandma.

I think my little brother Billy was small enough to squeeze in between mom and dad. (I didn’t learn until decades later that my brother Jim deliberately stayed away from home when we were going on a vacation–to escape going along–but he and I discovered our own enjoyment of taking trips in the 80s and 90s. His job took him to a number of places on the West Coast; I’d take vacation time to go along with him. We went to San Diego twice, twice to Palm Springs, to Reno once on business and another time for the USBC Bowling Tournament in Reno; we also went to Las Vegas a couple times and once to San Francisco. During those car trips we often talked about our childhood experiences–a revelation in many ways).

The relatives we spent a week with in Detroit when I was about nine or ten were cousins on Grandma’s side of the family. There was a daughter about my age, named Pat, with whom I began corresponding — she was my first penpal. I think the family may have been second cousins of my father’s. I have no memories of where they put us at night or how Pat’s mother coped with all of us at mealtimes–I vaguely remember a large pool (maybe a lake?) that we spent a day at and I remember all of us crowded in the car–my dad only owned Chevrolet four door cars back then–possibly they were roomier. And no air conditioning! My father would have loved having a RV back then!

But I digress. My brother Jim often speculated that we had Gypsy blood and even though the Romany people do not appear on the DNA results that my brother Bill obtained–the general DNA lump sum of 67% Europe, West, could very well have accounted for some gypsies.

From Gypsy Feast dust jacket, I learned that the Romany people are descendants of the ancient warrior classes of Northern India who trekked westwards around A.D. 1000. Although they were, and still often are referred to as “gypsies” their correct name is Roma. Their migration took them through Persia and Armenia, into Europe and later to the Americas. Today, the Roma live scattered throughout the world.

Roma foodways were traditionally determined by their nomadic way of life. Thus, the cuisine came to include whatever was readily available, such as wild fruits and vegetables, berries, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, and wild game. Today, few Roma continue to live as nomads and their traditional cuisine has largely been replaced by that of the mainstream society.

Gypsy Feast, the publishers write, “evokes a memorable picture of the old Romany ways, including recipes, information on feasts and celebrations, marriage and funeral customs, and a unique way of life that has almost disappeared.

Carol Wilson provides recipes that have survived the centuries, frequently undergoing adaption to meet the tastes of a particular time or place, Today, as modern life encroaches on the traditional Romany customs, the old ways of life are rapidly disappearing. Gypsy Feast records many of these fading recipes and culinary traditions. (From the dust jacket to Gypsy Feast).

And I want to say that little more than a hundred years ago, pioneers trekking from Missouri to California or Oregon, were temporarily nomads as they headed west seeking a better life and land, or for the lure of gold, often recording what meager food they might find to supplement their food supplies running desperately short–when you think of it, the development of the USA often depended on their pioneering nomad skills) I have believed for most of my adult life that I made a journey across country in the 1800s, in a previous life.

In 1961 when my then-husband along with our one year old son, drove across country in search of a better life in California. I remember staring into the sky, filled with millions of stars at night when all you could see were stars. I thought to myself “I have done this before”. It was my introduction to past lives.

Returning to GYPSY FEAST, in the preface, the author notes, “the seeds for the book were sown when I was about ten years old and even at that early age, intensely interested in food and cooking and the kinds of food that people ate and why. I was fascinated by the Romany way of life. As a child growing up in the suburbs of Wakefield, in Yorkshire, England, my friends and I watched, enthralled as the Gypsies arrived I their gaily horse-drawn and motor caravans to set up camp in a local meadow every summer….”:

Wilson writes that even though they were called gypsies, their correct name is Roma. “Rom” means in the Roman language and the word to denote people is ROMA. She explains how the Roma made money seasonally such as fruit, vegetable and hop picking. Their labor was an essential part of the local economy and every year, large numbers of Roma traveled to the same fields, orchards and farms for employment…”

Wilson also explains that “the relentless onslaught of modern technology has had an enormous effects on Romany throughout the world as modern technology encroaches on their traditional way of life, their ancient customs are in decline and in danger of being lost forever…” The integration of many Roma with non-Roma cultures has also diluted many traditional values and beliefs. Many young Roman have largely forgotten the old traditions and culture. She says that many Roma are now settled in hoses and few if any travel through the country in colorful wagons.

In the Introduction, Wilson writes that it is difficult to establish with any certainty the world population of Roma today but estimates indicate there are about twelve to fifteen million worldwide and about ten million live in Europe, with an estimated one hundred thousand living in the United Kingdom. Most Roma today live in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

Wilson notes that “a nomadic people, their gradual migration from India in the fourteenth century led them to become scattered throughout the world. The reasons for t heir exodus are unknown but their migration took them through Persia, Armenia and eventually into Europe. As they traveled they absorbed man aspects of new foreign cultures, traditions and language into their own culture…”

The appearance of the Roma caused something of a stir in the United Kingdom in the fifteenth century—their burnished copper colored skin, glossy black hair and flamboyant colorful clothes, obscure language and almost magical knowledge of herbs and plants, led them to being greeted with suspicion, even hostility wherever they traveled. Wilson writes, “their swarthy looks resulted in a general belief that they were from Turkey or Egypt, and they became known as Egyptians or Gyptians which later became Gypsies. (Interesting to learn how the world “Gypsies” evolved, isn’t it? – sls)

Some record of gypsies in Britain can be found in the early 1500s but in 1530, suspicion and fear of vagrants led Henry VIII to make it an offence to be a gypsy and ordered their departure within forty days unless they chose to abandon “their naughty, idle and ungodly life”

However, writes Wilson, by the time of Elizabeth I there was estimated to be around ten thousand Gypsies I England and although their presence was not exactly welcomed, they were accepted as part of the community.

There is a great deal more of the Introduction to be found in Gypsy Fare but if I keep going, we’ll never get to foodways of everyday life of the Roma.

In her chapter titled Everyday Life, Wilson writes that “Traditionally, eating habits of the Roma was dictated by their nomadic way of life, and their diet consisted largely of what was readily available and in season, such as wild fruits, berries, leafy plants, herbs, flowers, fish and shellfish, game and small mammals which were free for the taking in fields, woods, meadows and streams. Foods were also often traded along the road. Boys as well as girls were taught to cook so they would always be able to look after themselves in the wild. The value of food is difficult for us to appreciate nowadays as we are used to easily accessible to shops and stores which offer a great variety of food…”

Wilson also notes that wild foods were vital for the survival of the Roma and the people developed a phenomenal knowledge of these—which were edible, which were poisonous (even lethal) and where to find them.

Under Everyday Foods, Wilson provides recipes for Berries, sweet with nuts cherry pudding, Bread and Fruit Pudding, Damson Cobbler and others—the one I especially want to try is a recipe for Blackberry Butter. (My Oregon friends have wild blackberries galore on their property). Blackberry Tart would also be great to try.

Generally, we don’t think of flowers as being edible; Wilson notes that flowers are now enjoying something of a renaissance as a fashionable ingredient—these can be sprinkled over salads and even added to stews for their bright color and flavor. Wilson writes, in the chapter titled Edible Flowers, that the practice of using flowers in cookery is very old. Medieval monks cultivated flowers such as marigolds and lavender in their kitchen gardens, alongside herbs and vegetables—Wilson provides a detailed list of what flowers can be grown for use in cooking.

The next chapter is titled NUTS – and since I have cookbooks dedicated to various edible nuts, I’ll skip this except to note, per Wilson, the use of acorns in cooking. We know that Indian tribes used acorns (to make flour, I think) but I don’t think you see much of this in American cookery nowadays.

There are many more chapters—and recipes in Gypsy Fare—but I have written a great deal from the Introduction and this is already fairly long for a review.

I found Gypsy Feast listed on and; both have a starting price of $12.95 for either new or used copies. also has a Kindle edition for about $12.00. This book is valuable for historical reference as well as simply for your enjoyable reading.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith


I presented this to my readers a couple years ago–while I am trying to figure out how to find some things, I have been repeating myself here and there, with apologies.

Culinary Alchemy

For maybe over five years—maybe more like seven or eight now–I have been searching for a quote – a particular food quote. I KNOW you will forgive me for rehashing this topic once again but one of these days SOMEBODY is going to know the exact quote.

I searched high and low and far and wide, somewhat under the impression that it was something that perhaps M.F.K. Fisher or Elizabeth David had written. Needless to say I didn’t find it in either of their books that I have on my shelves. I searched through three books of food related quotes and did an extensive search on Google without having any success.

What the quote related to is the name of that “thing” – the subtle changes that occur when cooks trained in the same kitchen making the same dish, following the same recipe–end up with different results.

Also got to thinking one day as I was watching “Chopped” on the Food Network – that what they are doing is a take-off on this quote I am searching for. On Chopped, the contestants are given 3 or 4 of the same ingredients and in a specific amount of time (sometimes only 20 minutes!), have to create a dish–appetizer or an entrée or a dessert. They present their dish to the judges who decide which dish is the best and one contestant at a time is “chopped” or eliminated from the competition until finally one chef is declared the winner.

You all are probably familiar with this show so perhaps I am unnecessarily digressing. But what they are actually doing is WOK PRESENCE.

I accidentally found a quote while searching for something else. It was something Karen Hess wrote about in her outstanding book “THE CAROLINA RICE KITCHEN….THE AFRICAN CONNECTION”. Ms. Hess was referring specifically to African American women who, during the times of slavery, left their thumbprint on everything they cooked. They were a part of the south but they brought with them African influences which eventually changed the palate of southerners. Ms. Hess writes that the Chinese have a name for this, those subtle changes, and they call it Wok Presence.

(*I wrote an article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange years ago, titled “OUR AFRICAN HERITAGE” which appeared in the Feb/March 1996 issue of the CCE – which was how I was led to The Carolina Rice Connection by Ms. Hess).

Another cookbook author, Rosa Lewis, had a somewhat different take on the same concept and wrote, “Some people’s food always tastes better than others, even if they are cooking the same dish at the same dinner. Now I will tell you why–because one person has more life in them–more fire, more vitality, more guts–than others. A person without these things can never make food taste right, no matter what materials you give them, it is not use Turn in the whole cow full of cream instead of milk, and all the fresh butter and ingredients in the world, and still the cooking will taste dull and flabby–just because they have nothing in themselves to give. You have got to throw feeling into cooking.” – and no, this is not the quote I have been looking for.

I have been aware of these subtle changes for most of my adult life. It’s why a recipe can be published in a cookbook with exact directions and measurements and my results may not be the same as your results. And there may be a dozen reasons why not.

In the early 1980s, when I was living in Florida, I became even more acutely aware of this difference as I tried to share some favorite recipes with my next door neighbor. She would come crying to me “My cookies burn! They don’t turn out like yours!” – I was baffled – after all, it was the famous Toll House cookie recipe on the back of every package of Nestle’s semi sweet morsels. How could it be different? I went over to her house to watch her bake the cookies and discovered that she would put two cookie trays, side by side – wedged in really, on a rack. The air couldn’t flow; the bottoms of the cookies burned.

I have been a great proponent, ever since, for baking two trays of cookies on two separate racks and switching them, top to bottom, bottom to top half way through baking to assure even baking, so the hot air circulates. And when I am baking and time is not an issue, I bake one tray of cookies at a time. I have a very old stove so I pamper it a lot.

But “Wok Presence” can affect us in many other different ways. For instance – a girlfriend of mine says my ranch dressing tastes better than hers. I discovered she uses Kraft Miracle Whip salad dressing. I use Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are East of the Mississippi). Another time I discovered that a friend used a Polish Kolbasz for the Hungarian Layered potato recipe. You really need Hungarian Kolbasz to make an authentic Hungarian Layered potato casserole. That’s not to say that your dish won’t taste good. It just won’t taste AS good. It’s like – the difference you will get if you use margarine instead of real butter in a recipe. It will be ok. It just won’t be great.

Wok presence can be affected by the type of baking pans you use and the length of time something, such as a drop cookie, remains in the oven. I had this girlfriend at work who made such wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I asked her what the secret was. She replied that she under- baked the cookies; she would take them out of the oven a few minutes early and let them stand on the cookie sheet on a counter until they were cool enough to remove.
Such a small change but it made the difference between soft and chewy – and crisp.

I adopted her under baking rule with most butter cut out cookies that I make – when they are brown around the edges yet firm enough – I take them out and let them stand on the cookie sheets for a while before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. And cookie sheets! The kind of cookie sheets you use can make all the difference in the world with your finished product. Now I replace cookie sheets every few years – and I use parchment paper on all of them, all of the time. It works better than the aluminum foil I used on the cookie sheets for years.

The more I think about this – the more certain I am that someone else, a famous cookbook author (and I am still leaning heavily towards Elizabeth David) said that the FRENCH have a name for it, those subtle differences that take place when two chefs – cook the same recipe, with the same ingredients – but each will turn out differently. There is a NAME for this and I am going crazy trying to pin it down.

My curiosity was piqued when someone sent me a food section from the San Jose Mercury News, published in September, 1994. The story was written by Kathie Jenkins of the Los Angeles Times, whose name I recognized. Jenkins opens the article, titled “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THE RECIPE” by relating the story of a lady whose hobby is trying recipes until she finds the perfect one. In her quest for the perfect crab cake, this cook tried many different versions including several provided by notable cookbook authors. “They were soggy little balls of yuck,” she reported. “Even my husband wouldn’t touch them, which is really amazing. They were too disgusting.”

All of this came as no surprise, Jenkins reports, “to the owner of the Cook’s Library, Los Angeles’ only all-cookbook shop. “More than half the books in my store have at least one recipe that doesn’t work” reported the storeowner.

And John Taylor, who owns a culinary bookstore in South Carolina and is the author of “Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking” observed that, if he only sold books where the recipes worked, he wouldn’t have any books on his shelves.

The trouble is, writes Kathie Jenkins, that recipe testing is nearly always left to authors who must do it or pay for it. “For cookbook authors,” Jenkins notes, “slaving over a test kitchen stove can pay big dividends. The most popular personalities can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Added to this are revenues from product endorsements, consultant fees, sponsorships, television shows, and video cassettes.”
Or,” she continues, “in the case of style czarina Martha Stewart, your very own magazine. She started out as a Connecticut caterer, wrote the book, “Entertaining,” and parlayed that into a reported $2 million empire – plus a stream of royalties from television shows, videos, CDs and all those Martha Stewart products sold at Kmart…”

Jenkins notes that a famous name is no guarantee that the recipes work, however. Hoppin’ John Taylor commented, “Nobody in their right mind buys a Martha Stewart Book for a recipe. They buy them for her ideas and great pictures. If a recipe works in a Martha Stewart book, it’s somebody else’s.”
In defense of Martha Stewart and apologies to any Martha Stewart fans, a spokesperson for Martha Stewart commented, “That quote sounds like somebody in the cookbook business who wrote a book and it didn’t sell. I think those are just sour grapes.”

Whether it’s sour grapes or not, I’ll leave that for all of you to decide. What is relevant to the subject at hand is that cookbook publishers have no test kitchens. Most newspapers don’t either and consequently, they can’t test every recipe they print from a cookbook. Most recipes are printed as they appear in cookbooks or from wire services. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Times does have a test kitchen and a staff to cook in it. All of the recipes in the “Best of the Best” cookbooks published by Quail Ridge Press are pre-tested. You can generally expect a well-prepared Junior League cookbook to have tested recipes and they will often tell you so in their book by thanking the committee of testers who worked on the recipes (sometimes testing recipes three or four times). Jenkins notes that, unlike newspapers, which can correct a recipe the following week, if necessary, cookbook publishers can’t correct even the mistakes they’ll admit to, short of a recall or waiting until the next printing. And while cookbook publishers claim to care about accuracy in recipes, Jenkins notes, most are unwilling to spend the money to make sure the recipes actually work. In a standard publishing contract, the responsibility of recipe testing is left up to the writers.

Added to the mistakes that may be made somewhere between the writing of the cookbook and its publication, there is another important element to all of this. It translates to the difference between the kitchen of the cookbook author and the kitchen of the person who purchased the cookbook.

Author Paul Reidinger has written, “But the curious truth about recipes is that they often produce dramatically different results in different hands in different kitchens. Many times over the years I’ve told interested parties how I roast my chickens and make my salsa, and I am always convinced that my methods are simple and bulletproof – until I am advised that somebody else used one of my recipes exactly and still ended up with a mess. These admonishments remind me that recipes are only partly science; following a recipe is not like solving a quadratic equation. There is play involved, wiggle room, variance, uncertainty, and the person in charge has to know how to adjust.”

It’s also fairly well known that famed cookbook author Elizabeth David disliked giving exact measurements in her recipes. John Thorne, editor of a cooking newsletter called Simple Cooking, in writing about Elizabeth David, commented, “This – although contemporary food writers (or at least their editors) consider it (i.e., David’s distaste for exact measurements) an inexplicable even reader-hostile failing – expresses a direct truth. The responsibility for a dish must finally lie not with the writer but with the cook. Too much instruction muddles the reality of his responsibility. Cookbooks cannot hold hands; their task is to make the reader think. In Elizabeth David’s books, reader and writer face this fact across the page….”

And, not to run this subject to the ground, there are so many variables when it comes to cooking. The cookbook author’s oven is probably not the same as yours (and do you even know if your oven temperature is completely accurate? Have you ever tested it with an oven thermometer?). Are you using the right size pan? You are probably not using the same kind of flour or baking powder as the cookbook author used. Most recipes don’t specifically state what brand of flour is used, and a lot of people are unaware that baking powder has a limited shelf life. The same goes for spices and herbs. A lot of people don’t know that herbs and spices should be stored in a cool place, away from the stove. I was horrified to see, in a nationally circulated, well- known magazine, the photograph of a kitchen with a spice rack built right over the stove. I wrote to them to complain – that’s the worst place to put a spice rack. They did not respond to my letter. If your herbs and spices have been languishing on a shelf near the stove for a year or two, chances are they’ll have very little potency. That could affect your recipe.

Recently, my granddaughter Savannah and I flew to Sioux Falls South Dakota where we spent a week visiting my son and his wife. One day I baked chocolate chip cookies for him. I used a Silpat sheet on the cookie sheet (at home I use parchment paper) and within a day they were rock-hard even though I under baked them. Another day I baked two cakes – one a chocolate cake, from a mix, in a Bundt pan. The other cake was an angel food cake in a new pan that did NOT come out of the Teflon coated pan easily. I covered my mistakes with chocolate glaze. I have no explanation for the difficulties I encountered using their kitchen—I would blame it on the stove but it’s a very expensive stove that they bought only a year ago. I don’t think Sioux Falls is at any elevation different from Ohio (correct me if I’m wrong). The chocolate cake did not rise as much as it should have. I felt like a failure even though I recognize that the problem was not having my own kitchen to bake in.

Consequently, the skill and expertise of the cook is an important factor to the outcome of recipes. And what do you blame it on if it’s a recipe you have been baking in your home for over forty years? I would undoubtedly be a disaster in one of those Pillsbury Bake-Off kitchens.

But, as Kathie Jenkins reported in her newspaper article, there are a lot of bad recipes that have appeared in cookbooks. The test crew at the Los Angeles Times did a lot of research on their own and discovered there were some real losers (including two lemon pies from Martha Stewart’s “Pies and Tarts” cookbook). Says Jenkins, “Many of the reportedly faulty recipes not only worked but tasted wonderful. One award-winning cookbook author griped that he could never get Rose Levy Beranbaum’s genoise to work. We did. Another complained of far too much chile oil in the spicy soba noodles in Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s ‘City Cuisine’. The noodles were delicious. And Marion Cunningham’s gingerbread did not run all over the oven the way one authority claimed it would.”

“So many things,” Jenkins notes, “affect how well a recipe works—equipment, weather, ingredients, personal taste. So what’s a cookbook author to do? Vigilance and thorough working knowledge of one’s recipes are probably the best insurance..”

Jenkins comment on weather struck a chord. When we lived in Florida for three years, I discovered that some of my favorite recipes were simply impossible to make. The Stained Glass Window cookies simply dripped all the “stained glass” after a day or two and when I couldn’t get melted sugar to set up for the kids’ graham cracker houses, I put them into the oven thinking they would dry out. I set the oven on fire. You simply couldn’t make any kind of meringue cookie, due to the humidity–and I discovered that the beet sugar in Florida was much grainier than the Hawaiian sugar cane sugar we were so accustomed to using. For about two years, I had a girlfriend shipping me bags of C&H sugar from California. (This is probably not a major problem for someone who has central air conditioning in their home but that was a luxury we didn’t have, at the time. I was so happy when we moved back to
California where—despite the intense heat of summers—we seldom have humidity to deal with.

“Good cooking”, wrote Yuan Mei, “does not depend on whether the dish is large or small, expensive or economical. If one has the art, then a piece of celery or salted cabbage can be made into a marvelous delicacy whereas if one has not the art, not all the greatest delicate rarities of land, sea or sky are of any avail.”

Since wok presence is boiled down to leaving your thumbprint – it seems logical to share a thumbprint cookie recipe with you:

Cranberry thumbprints (From the LA TIMES COOKIE CONTEST)

Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Note: Adapted from a recipe by Kim Gerber.

Cranberry jam

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 (10-ounce) package frozen cranberries

1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons corn starch

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together one-fourth cup of water, the sugar and orange zest. Stir in the cranberries and cinnamon stick and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of water with the cornstarch to form a slurry. Thoroughly stir the slurry in with the cranberry mixture and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This makes a scant 1½ cups jam, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The jam will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Cookies and assembly

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup coarse raw sugar (for rolling)

About 3/4 cup cranberry jam

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour and the all-purpose flour, along with the flax meal and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the orange zest and juice. Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined to form a dough.

3. Roll about 1½ teaspoons of dough into balls. Roll each ball in the raw sugar, then place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2½ inches apart. Press an indentation into the center of each ball using your thumb or finger.

4. Refrigerate the sheets until the dough is hardened, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake each sheet of cookies for 7 minutes. Remove each sheet, and quickly re-press the indentation in the center of each cookie using the handle of a wooden spoon. Continue baking the cookies until set and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on wire racks.

6. To assemble the cookies, place a small dollop (about one-half teaspoon) of the jam in the indentation of each cookie. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies, if desired, before serving.

Each of 6 dozen cookies: 62 calories; 1 gram protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 9 mg cholesterol; 5 grams sugar; 13 mg sodium.

Happy Cooking & Happy cookbook collecting! – Sandy


FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is a tantalizing cookbook that captivated me, not only with the title—but also from the subtitle “A Guatemalan and Mayan Cookbook.” It wasn’t so very long ago that I reviewed a cookbook for you titled “FOODS OF THE MAYA/ A TASTE OF THE YUCATAN” by Nancy & Jeffrey Gerlach.

I have never had a desire to visit any of the countries in South America—but “FOODS OF THE MAYA” piqued my curiosity. Copeland Marks, I learned, is co-author of THE INDONESIAN KITCHEN and often contributed to Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Food and Wine—all of which has me wondering how a New Yorker has produced such a tantalizing title as, FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BFEAD.

My curiosity increased in Marks’ introduction in which he writes, “several years ago I approached a number of people in Guatemala City and told them I wanted to write a book on the cuisine of Guatemala. My comment was received with utter disbelief that there was a cuisine at all; people claimed that the highland Indians ate only beans, tortillas and tamales, and that if there was any semblance of a cooking style it occurred only in the large cities…”
Marks says he collected the textiles of the Maya for twenty years, moving from one village to another where the great tribal textile tradition was still extant. He says he had been impressed by the variety of foods in the daily markets as well as the selection of spices and seasonings available. He knew, he says, there had to be a cuisine. despite fact that none of the restaurants serving tourists were presenting the authentic foods and that there was no real bibliography of cookbooks in English one could study. So Marks returned to the village weavers known to him, all of them women, and proceeded to talk about food and recorded the daily and ceremonial recipes based upon his observation and actual cooking activities with them.
Marks says it wasn’t all that easy—at one point he was bitten by a mad dog in the village of San Juan Sacatepequez and had to undergo 16 injections into his stomach—and there were many other Sacatepequez experiences—during which he asked himself if there wasn’t an easier way to find and write about a cuisine. However, he writes, after a guerilla experience, the veil lifted and Marks was able to collect considerable evidence that the cuisine of Guatemaya Maya is in reality two separate cuisines, –one of the highland Indian with their pre-Hispanic style and the other of the Spanish Colonial era which had been developed by the new race, the Ladinos, who were a mixture of the old and the new. brought about independently of the two other cuisines, a minor satellite that had developed independently in the town of Livingston in Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. It was here that indentured labor from India and Africa was brought in by the British to work in the sugarcane and forests of British Honduras, (now known as Belize). These people developed a vivid style of cooking that was tropical, based on seafood, bananas and coconut milk.

Nowhere will you find more creatively named recipes than those you will find in False Tongues and Sunday Bread! Starting with False Tongues, which is a ground beef loaf, otherwise known as Lengua Fingida.

In the Foreword, Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz writes “Copeland Marks has made a meticulous study of a little-known culinary regions of the Americas—the once-great Mayan empire that stretched from the mother city of “Tikal in Guacamole , north into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through the modern state of Campeche to Palenque in Chiapas and south to Copan in Honduras, glory had begun to fade by the time of the Spanish Conquest in the sixteenth century. Surprisingly, much has survived the centuries, including the magnificent weavings and the food…the cuisines are, of course, dominated by the indigenous foods. Most of them, like tomatoes, corn, the common bean, chiles and sweet peppers were first cultivated in Mexico, where it is believed agriculture was born millennia ago. These still form the basis of the kitchen, though nowadays with the foods introduced by the Conquest and by the spread of modern trade, all the foods of the world are available. The Guatemalan kitchen of today reflects this and it has also been modified by modern cooking methods and kitchen tools such as the blender and food processor…”

Recipes throughout False Tongues and Sunday Bread reflect the combining of old and new and you will surely reflect all of these and a great deal more. Read and enjoy.

FALSE TONGUES AND SUNDAY BREAD is available on; prices mostly steep but there is one in pre-owned copies for $14.91.




*Your nightstand is piled high with cookbooks that you read in bed at night the way other people read novels.  It’s not unusual for you to find a couple of cookbooks in the bed with you when you awaken in the morning.

*You immediately head for the cookbook section of your favorite bookstore, just to see what’s new;

*You seldom leave a bookstore without buying a few new cookbooks;

*You go to the Friends of the Library book sales just to search for cookbooks. You might even buy some you already have but will buy them anyway because they are only fifty cents each;

*You don’t see anything unusual about having more than one edition of a favorite cookbook, such as the Joy of Cooking; your logic is that there might be some different recipes in the newer edition;

*You don’t want any of the pages of your cookbooks to become stained or spattered so you will copy a recipe on your printer instead of referring directly to the cookbook. Your refrigerator door is covered with recipes copied from cookbooks;

*When someone says they have a huge collection of cookbooks – at least three hundred books – you snicker because you have more than three thousand cookbooks;

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks is – browsing through book catalogs and websites that feature a lot of cookbooks;

*Your idea of a perfect day is spending it in used bookstores that have a lot of old cookbooks for sale—and the storekeeper has to help you lug them all to the trunk of your car when you are finished shopping (one of my favorites is in downtown Cincinnati);

*When someone asks you “What’s your favorite cookbook, the one you can’t live without?” you have to admit you probably have over a hundred favorites you can’t live without.

*You think the next best thing to reading cookbooks and recipes – is writing about them!    You have discovered that it is as rewarding—even more so—when you have the opportunity to participate in the creation of a community (church or club) cookbook. The first one I participated in was RECIPES ROUNDUP for Beachy School in Arleta  (California) in 1971. I volunteered to help and ended up taking over the entire project, typing all of the recipes before submitting them to a publisher. Several of the PTA ladies that participated in the project became life-long friends.  A few years later my sister Becky & I both participated in the compilation of a Christmas cookbook from a group in Cincinnati. And she was a major driving force in a cookbook project by the Cheviot PTA in Cincinnati—she did all of the graphics and submitted dozens of our family’s favorite recipes. Oddly enough—this spiral bound cookbook published by a PTA in Cincinnati somehow ended up in the hands of a girlfriend of mine when she was living in Maryland but some years later, returned to California—where she and her husband retired in the mountains in Southern California—I spotted it on her cookbook shelves one day when I was visiting—and couldn’t believe she had a copy of that particular cookbook.

The greatest project was the family cookbook, Grandma’s Favorite which ended up taking us years to get published in 2004. It’s my favorite turn-to cookbook though—it contains most of the family favorites. Another project that took years to be published was The Office Cookbook that a group of us where I worked began working on in the 1980s. The original manuscript contains over 400 recipes and when a co-worker learned that I had all of them, typed up, in a notebook – he asked if he could copy it and I said yes, of course. He printed both sides of the pages and put the book into nice clear plastic binders—and presented me with a copy.  Some twenty-something years later, when the company’s fund-raising committee wanted a sure fire fund-raiser – I suggested the Office Cookbook. It was reduced to 200 recipes—many of the original contributors had either retired or passed away—but finally it was published in 2002, still under the name of The Office Cookbook. It was never anything else.  But when I want a particular recipe, I almost always turn to the UN-condensed typewritten collection in a 3-ring binder.

*A few years ago, I became acquainted, long-distance, with a woman who is an editor for a cookbook publishing house.  I often think – that has to be the BEST job of all! Kudos to you, Sheila.

Happy Cooking!