Category Archives: TALKING ABOUT COOKBOOKS

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

A PEEK INTO THE PAST–ANTIQUARIAN COOKBOOKS

A PEEK INTO THE PAST….ANTIQUE COOKBOOKS
AN UPDATE IN 2016 (originally posted 5/29/11
Say “antiquarian cookbooks” and most people imagine that anything they consider old—cookbooks over 30 years old, for instance–to be “antiques”. Strictly speaking, a thirty year old cookbook isn’t an antique; however, many cookbooks published in fairly recent decades may be extremely valuable to a collector. If, for instance, you have a first edition copy of “Joy of Cooking” – the very first copies, the true first editions, were self published by the author in 1931, making one of those 80 years old. It has been in print continuously since 1936 with more than 18 million copies sold. In 1936, Bobs-Merrill began publishing “Joy”. A first edition of “Joy” was listed recently by ABE books for $3,000.00.

Many cookbook dealers call themselves antiquarian book dealers while most of the cookbooks they are offering for sale are not truly antiquarian…but may be merely out of print or scarce. And remember the #1 golden rule of cookbook collecting or trying to sell some of your books—a cookbook is only worth $3,000.00 (or even $100.00) if someone will PAY that price. As a collector you have to decide for yourself whether the asking price of a book is worth that much. (Heck, I would love to complete my collection of The Browns cookbooks but am missing their Vegetable cookbook—I have seen it listed by antiquarian dealers for $90.00 – and to MY mind, $90.00 is too steep. I think even $50.00 would be too much –Tag it at $25.00 and I would probably start writing a check. (After originally posting this article, someone from the Browns’ family found a copy of the Vegetable Cookbook and I was able to purchase it for $25.00!)

Personally, I think most dealer prices are too pricey; I find most of my treasures in thrift stores and other out-of-the-way places where the prices are often more reasonable. On the other hand, I HAVE paid rather high prices for cookbooks I have coveted too much not to own them. And in recent years, I have been doing a lot of my searching on Amazon.com.

So, you ask, what IS an antiquarian cookbook? To be truly an antique, it should be over one hundred years old.

We are fortunate that cookbooks, over the centuries, have enjoyed a high enough status to have been collected and preserved.

The earliest cookbooks were handwritten manuscripts, prior to the invention of the printing press in 1455. All books were handwritten manuscripts. The Gutenberg Bible, as we know, was the first book printed on the printing press, but cookbooks also played an important role in the development of printed books.

Per Esther Aresty in her 1964 “The Delectable Past” (Simon & Schuster), the first cookbook printed on the printing press originated in Italy. It was written by a Vatican librarian named Bartolomeo de’ Sacchi and was titled “DE HONESTA VOLUPTATE” which loosely translates to mean “Permissible Pleasures.”
England’s first printed cookbook, “The Boke of Cokery” (sic) was published in 1500; “The Good House-Wive Treasure” (sic) was printed in 1588; “The English House-wife” (sic) by Gervase Markham was printed in 1615, and along with other cookbooks being published during those periods of time, were all written by men – women were not thought to be competent enough to write cookbooks!
Also, these books were owned only by the wealthy or royalty—bearing in mind, it really was a man’s world; most women in medieval times did not have the luxury of an education.

From Betty Confidential I learned that the very first female cookbook writer is believed to be Sabina Welserin of Augsburg, Germany. Her Kochbuch of 1553, however, remained in manuscript form until modern times.

Also from Betty Confidential, “Anna Weckerin’s Ein Köstlich new Kochbuch (A Delicious New Cookbook) of 1598 is the first cookbook published by a woman. It went through many editions up through the 17th century. She was the wife of a prominent professor of medicine, Johann Jacob Wecker, and not surprisingly, was health conscious. Her recipes include a roast salmon with a sour sauce, an eel pie, as well as more familiar German dishes like Bratwurst and Lebkuchen.” Betty Confidential also refers to “One of the most delightful and least known of antique cookbooks is ‘Rare and Excellent Receipts’ by Mary Tillinghast published in 1690. (This is the first I have ever heard of Mary Tillinghast’s cookbook).

In my original article for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange in 1993, I noted that “Possibly the first English cookbook with a woman’s by-line appeared in London in 1681 and was titled “The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet” by Hannah Wooley. While searching on Google to re-verify my 1993 notes, I came across the earlier references to Sabina Welserin and Anna Weckerin.
Another of the earliest female cookbook authors was Mary Kettilby who, in 1714, published “A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery; For the Use of All Good Wives, Tender Mothers and Careful Nurses.” But one woman writer who was to greatly influence English cookbooks and to prove that women were just as capable as men when it came to compiling cookbooks was Hannah Glasse, whose book “The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy” was published in 1747.

These early cookbooks were scarcely JUST cookbooks—they contained everything from household hints to directions for making up one’s own medicines, instructions for managing the household servants and proper etiquette, to directions for concocting perfumes, wines, cordials, soap, yeast – just about everything.

Early cookbooks began with the premise that first you had to KILL the animal that was to be eaten, and provide gory details for dismembering and preparing meat. I remember one old cookbook’s directions for cooking calf’s head—first you had to hold it by an ear and dip the head in boiling water! Still think it was so great back in the good old days? Calf’s head jelly was a forerunner of Jello gelatin—but Calf’s head was also cooked to make “mock turtle soup” – when you didn’t have a turtle but did have a calf’s head laying around. Ew, ew. Directions for killing a turtle to make authentic turtle soup are so gruesome that I, for one, am grateful for mock turtle soup. More recent versions of mock turtle soup are made with…ground beef.

Many seventeenth and eighteenth century cookbooks found their way across the ocean—ALL cookbooks first available in this country came from Europe. Not that it mattered very much; pioneer Americans were learning to adapt to a wide variety of new foods and one can suppose that even if the lady of the house COULD read and write, much of the discourse on managing servants would have been useless to early pioneer women.

The first American cookbook was printed in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, and reprinted there in 1752. According to “The Delectable Past”, however, this book was American by imprint only for it was actually Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife” (sic) which, at the time, was the most popular cookbook in England. The same book was reprinted in New York in 1764. (There was a lot of plagiarism ‘back in the day’ and apparently, it was done with impunity.)
In 1772, a cookbook was published in Boston, Susannah Carter’s “The Frugal Housewife,” followed in 1792 by Richard Briggs’ cookbook “The New Art of Cookery”. However, these first “American” cookbooks were actually English cookbooks; none contained recipes using Native American foods. Cookbooks were not in great demand in this country. In the south (and in the homes of some of the well-to-do) hostesses kept manuscript recipe journals and guarded their treasured recipes carefully, while in pioneer households across the land, young girls learned to cook by watching and helping their mothers in the kitchen.

The first cookbook written by an American woman was Amelia Simmon’s “American Cookery” which appeared in print in 1796. Amelia, according to cooklore, was an orphan and is credited with also being the first American cookbook writer to use American recipes with American ingredients. Her book was enormously successful—so much so that many of her recipes turned up later in Susannah Carter’s book “The Frugal Housewife” which in turn was plagiarized later in a reprint edition of Hannah Glasse’s book for American readers! But as noted earlier, these aren’t the first instances of plagiarism—stealing other cookbook authors’ works was a common practice that goes back hundreds of years.

Even Alexander Dumas, famous for having written “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers” was guilty of plagiarizing when he was compiling his “Le Grand Dictionaire de Cuisine”. This was such a common practice, one can only assume that in the absence of laws protecting writers, authors had no compunctions against lifting material from other writers’ works.
The publishing market was replete, throughout the 1800s, with cookbooks written by women (bearing in mind, it was one of the few things a respectable “lady” could pursue as a source of income).

One written by a man was “The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined: comprising ample directions for preparing every article requisite for furnishing the tables of the nobleman, gentleman and tradesman, by John Mollard. (Presumably, in Mr. Mollard’s world there were no women in the kitchen).

From the previously mentioned Susannah Carter, in 1803, was “The Frugal Housewife: or, Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts” (Has anyone ever wondered how those long titles ever fit on the cover of a book?)

Sometimes the author of a cookbook, if a woman, would write anonymously to preserve her dignity and reputation. “A New System of Domestic Cookery, published in 1807 “by a Lady” was later identified when the book was reprinted.
And, in 1808 Lucy Emerson is credited with “The New-England Cookery, Or The Art of Dressing All Kinds of Flesh, Fish, and Vegetables—etc etc” and if it sounds familiar, it’s because Lucy plagiarized the 1798 cookbook by Amelia Simmons.

I was curious about copyright laws and when they went into effect, so – digressing and sidetracking, which I am known to do, I Googled a number of websites. I learned this:

The world’s first copyright law was the Queen Anne Statute, or “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. It was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710.

The purpose of this was to protect work of authors, but copyright laws have now extended to all forms of media. The Queen Anne Statute was the origin of all modern copyright laws.

In the USA, the basis for both copyright and patent law is established in Article 1, section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution (adopted 17 September 1787).

The first actual US copyright legislation was passed by the Congress on 25 May 1790 and signed into law by then President George Washington on 31 May 1790. While Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have birthed the idea of copyrights, it can be seen that it was present in the UK well before then.

Well, despite the existence of copyright laws, would-be authors went right on plagiarizing, or pirating, other authors’ works.

In 1815, Priscilla Homespun published “The Universal Receipt Book” (do you think that was really her surname?) and in 1819, The New Family Receipt Book was published by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell, who published a number of other cookbooks in her time.

In 1820, Rundell published “The New Family Receipt Book” while (same year) Mrs. Frazer published “The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, Confectionary, Pickling, Preserving…”

There was in 1830, “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats” by “A Lady of Philadelphia”—in 1832, reprint identified the Lady of Philadelphia as Miss Leslie of Philadelphia.

One of the first of these that I actually recognize and remember reading about elsewhere is “The Virginia Housewife, Or, Methodical cook”, published in 1838 by Mary Randolph….I could spend hours typing up all the references to cookbooks published in the 1800s, but you get the picture.

From Feeding America, we learn that “by 1860 more and more cookbooks were being printed, and American cookbooks had become an integral part of the publishing business. The upheaval of the Civil War caused a decline in the publication of all books, including cookbooks. Then, in the 1870s, three major cookbooks explosions occurred, the effects of which are still with us. The first was a Civil War legacy: cookbooks compiled by women’s charitable organizations to raise funds to aid victims of the War – orphans, widows, wounded, veterans. When the Civil War ended, these organizations turned their charitable attentions to other causes. The trickle of these early books published in the 1860s and 1870s has become a flood today, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charitable cookbooks to benefit every conceivable cause are published in the United States each year…(another) important development was the growth of the cooking school movement. It began with the cooking schools started in New York City by Pierre Blot and Juliet Corson and intensified with the great cooking schools and their teachers – Mrs. Rorer in Philadelphia and Mrs. Lincoln and Fannie Farmer in Boston. These schools dominated American cookbook publishing for the remainder of the nineteenth century and early into the twentieth”.

So, fast forward a little bit – to the latter 1800s, when along came Fannie – Fannie Farmer. Fannie was born in Medford, Massachusetts in March, 1857, the oldest of four daughters, born into a family that highly valued education and expected Fannie to go to college. However, when she was just sixteen years old, she suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to continue her education. For several years she couldn’t walk and remained at home with her parents. During this period of time. Fannie took up cooking, eventually turning her mother’s home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals they served. At the age of 30, Fannie – now walking with a limp – enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. Fannie trained at the school until 1889 learning what were then considered the most important elements of cooking, nutrition, diet for convalescents, cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. Fannie was one of the school’s top students. She was kept on as assistant to the director, and in 1891 took on the job of school principal. Fannie published her best-known work, “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book”, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.

“The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” was actually a follow-up to an earlier version called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book”, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884 under Fannie Farmer’s direction. Fannie Farmer’s cookbook eventually contained 1,849 recipes. Fannie also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning, and drying fruits and vegetables, and providing nutritional information. The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) didn’t expect good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later. (Yes, Virginia, a first edition of the 1896 cookbook would be worth some bucks especially since only 3000 copies were published).

Fannie Farmer’s book listed ingredients separately from directions, presented readers with accurate, level measurements. Earlier cookbooks would instruct the cook to “use butter the size of an egg”. (What size egg? Small? Medium? Jumbo?) or to “heat the oven until you can only hold your hand inside for 15 seconds, (or until you have a second degree burn?) or might call for “a teacup of flour” (what size teacup?).

Actually, Ms. Farmer wasn’t the FIRST to list ingredients separately from directions; Sarah Tyson Rorer had done that some years before, in her book “Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cookbook” (where Mrs. Rorer had a cooking school of HER own), but the concept of level, accurate, standardized measurements brought science into the kitchen.

Why are these old cookbooks so fascinating to read? Certainly they often lack usefulness in today’s kitchen; the recipes are generally vague about directions and quantities needed. However, they provide us with a stunning glimpse into the past, in an area (the kitchen) that most of us are familiar with. We see – perhaps better than most historians – just how time consuming and difficult a housewife’s role was a hundred or two hundred years ago. With the vast amount of work required in the kitchen, it’s a wonder that the lady of the house managed to accomplish so many other things as well. I have been reminded that families were often large and it was not uncommon for a maiden aunt or a grandmother or other extended family members to live in the house and thereby providing extra helping hands (confirming the axiom that many hands make light work).

Middle to upper class homes one hundred years ago might easily have had a maid or two, or a housekeeper or cook as well. I think we can safely assume that not ALL households had extra aunties or grandmothers, nor did all families have maids and cooks. Meals alone were a full time task that began at sunrise. If the lady of the house had a wood-burning stove, it meant laying the wood for the fire, keeping it hot, baking breads (which started with making one’s own yeast and sometimes getting the yeast starter going the night before) and then preparing meals for the entire family. Although wood stoves were commonly used, gas and oil stoves and ranges were available from the late 1800s. Miss Parloa, the author of a cookbook titled “Miss Parloa’s Every Day Cooking and Marketing Guide”, copyrighted in 1880 and published by Estes and Lauriat, judiciously expounds on the virtues of gas and oil stoves and ranges; she writes that the two products were so near perfection that it was difficult to imagine how they could be improved upon.

Miss Parloa deplored, however, the commonly used refrigerators of her time. She claimed that the food developed a peculiar odor due to the wood used in the construction of refrigerator’s interior and shelves. As most of us know, these “refrigerators” were actually “ice boxes” which contained blocks of ice (which you purchased from an ice man). The food was stored, literally, on ice. A few years later, a “better” ice box came along. The ice was stored in a separate compartment with vents on either side to allow air n either side to flow freely through the upper compartment, where the food was kept. What would Miss Parloa think if she could see our modern refrigerator/freezers with automatic ice cube and cold water dispensers on the doors?

Another of Maria Parloa’s cookbooks was “The Original Appledore Cook Book/Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking” published in 1872 and reprinted in 1881. My copy is in a truly battered, tattered, condition with the binding falling away from the contents, but what is intriguing are the last dozen pages or so, all covered with handwritten recipes that are so faded, it’s almost impossible to decipher the script. (When I began collecting cookbooks, I’d buy anything in any condition—just to have the books.)

And then there were the Beechers. Father Lyman was a Presbyterian minister. Daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, published in 1852.

“Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book: Designed as a Supplement to her Treatise on Domestic economy” was published in 1850 by Harriet’s sister, Catharine Esther Beecher. But there is an intriguing story behind the Domestic Receipt book—as told in Cookbooks-A-La-Carte:

“Catharine Beecher invited to tea one afternoon in 1846—twenty years after their graduation from the Hartford Female Seminary—two dozen of her former students. They listened with interest and sympathy as she described how the year before, promising to write a new cookbook, she had taken an advance from Harper & Brothers to send her gravely ill younger sister Harriet to the Brattleboro Spa in Vermont and of how, now, with only the first of over twenty projected chapters written, the deadline was fast approaching—which, if not met, would result in a severe financial penalty.

There was a solution . . . if each of those present would write a chapter, with a sufficient number of receipts—recipes—for the projected book, the whole book could be completed in a week! Never doubting their wholehearted support, she had the titles for the chapters ready on little slips of paper in her hand–meat, fish, vegetables, soups, pies, bread, breakfast and tea cakes, cakes, preserves and jellies, pickles, food for the sick . . .

The completed assignments were quickly assembled into Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, which soon became one of the nineteenth century’s most successful cook-books. Far ahead of its time, it warned about the dangers of animal fats and excessive sugar. Today there is, perhaps, no more detailed picture of what Americans were eating a hundred and fifty years ago and how it was cooked. In helping organize the kitchen and its work properly, Miss Beecher intended to enable women to lead longer, happier lives…”

In 1874 there was Marian Harland’s “Common Sense in the Household: a Manual of Practical Housewifery.” My copy is literally falling apart and is one of the oldest cookbooks in my collection. Marion Harland’s life was so interesting, it would be worth a post just about her. After writing 15 novels, starting at the age of 16, Marion wrote her first cookbook, “Common Sense in the Household” and continued writing many more books before her death at age 91.

There was also “English Bread-Book for Domestic Us, Adapted to Families of Every Grade” by Eliza Acton in 1857 and in 1877, “Buckeye Cookery, and Practical Housekeeping: Compiled from Original Recipes” – which has been reproduced in a facsimile edition.

Buckeye Cookery was the great mid-American cookbook of its day. It began life as a charity cookbook when, in 1876, the women of the First Congregational Church in Marysville, Ohio, published a cookbook to raise money to build a parsonage. They named it The Centennial Buckeye Cook Book, in honor of America’s Centennial.

The author, Estelle Woods Wilcox, who grew up in Marysville had moved with her husband to Minneapolis, where he managed the Minneapolis Daily Tribune. From Minneapolis, Mrs. Wilcox edited the contributions of the Marysville women and wrote the introductory essays to each section. The book was published in Minneapolis and the ladies of Marysville accomplished their goal by raising two thousand dollars for the parsonage.

Throughout the last years of the century, cookbooks continued to be published—more of Miss Parloa’s, some of Marion Harland’s, the White House cookbook by F. L. Gillette which led to numerous reprints over several decades (and is worthy of a post all its own), right up to 1899’s Catering For Two; Comfort and Economy for Small Households by Alice James, and Marion Harland’s “Bits of common Sense Series”.

And then there were all the cookbooks published in the 1900s….but, as you know, except for those published between 1900 and 1911, the rest don’t qualify as antiquarian cookbooks. However, that being said – there were cookbooks like the Settlement Cook book, Sarah Rorer’s New Cookbook, a Manual of Housekeeping published in 1902, Fannie Farmer’s “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent” published in 1904, Maria’s Parloa’s “Canned Fruit, Preserves, and Jellies: Household Methods of Preparation” also published in 1904, The Blue Grass Cookbook, by Minerva Fox, was also published in 1904, as was German National Cookery for American Kitchens, by Henriette Davids. The Times Cookbook by California Women was the result of a series of recipe contests in the Los Angeles Times and published by the Los Angeles Times in 1905, while the Good Housekeeping Family Cookbook was published in 1906- and the list goes on and on.

Collecting cookbooks is such a fascinating hobby—and it can be a valuable one, too. I bought a #1 Pillsbury Bake Off book at a flea market in Palm Springs one year, for $1.00. I almost didn’t buy it—the box of booklets on a table had a sign “books, 50c each” but when I held it up to the vendor, she said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. Grumbling, I paid her a dollar. It wasn’t until we were back in the car that I realized what I had—I had never before seen a picture of the first bake off book. They’re scarce and worth about $50.00 give or take a little depending on condition.

It’s an addictive kind of hobby as other collectors will testify. A few months ago, I began writing the current price of some of my old cookbooks on post-its to stick on the flyleaf, when I came across some of the going prices. The idea was for my family to have some kind of idea what some of the books are worth.

Did you know that Laura Bush collects vintage cookbooks? So do many top chefs including the Food Network’s Cat Cora. Booksellers throughout the country say that vintage cookbooks are in constant demand. A first edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons may be worth as much as ten thousand dollars—but I don’t think it’s the value of a book that attracts a true collector, as much as just HAVING a particular book. My having the #1 bake off booklet makes my collection of the Bake Off books complete even though they’re nowhere near being vintage cookbooks. Neither is the Vincent Price cookbook (which I do have)–one in good condition can be worth up to $200.00.

(Cookbooks written by the rich and famous is another whole ball of wax. I have several shelves-full of these books, dating back about 50 years. One of these days I will write about those).

Collecting cookbooks can pretty much take over your life, if you let it. (We have wall to wall bookshelves filled with cookbooks, inside the house. Bob had to convert half of our garage into a library to house all of our other books).

And when you aren’t reading antiquarian cookbooks, you can do as I do—WRITE about them!

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!
Sandy

CHASING THE LURE OF OLD COOKBOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Sandy @ sandychatter

THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION

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
THE FOOD JOURNAL OF LEWIS & CLARK/RECIPES FOR AN EXPEDITION

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:
http://www.lewisandclark200.org
http://www.lcarchive.org
http://www.lewisandclarktrail.com
http://www.gastronomica.org

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 http://www.historycooks.com.

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 Amazon.com, new and used, starting at $3.64

It is available on Alibris.com 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 Amazon.com and you will be pleasantly surprised how many books you will find.

Happy cooking and happy cookbook collecting!

Sandy

CHRISTMAS LOVE FROM YOUR KITCHEN

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, 1976

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!
Sandy

GYPSY FEAST BY CAROL WILSON

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 Amazon.com and Alibris.com; both have a starting price of $12.95 for either new or used copies. Amazon.com 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

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT

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.

WOK PRESENCE – OR LEAVING YOUR THUMPRINT
Culinary Alchemy
or
THE COOK’S THUMBPRINT

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 & SUNDAY BREAD

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 Amazon.com; prices mostly steep but there is one in pre-owned copies for $14.91.

REVIEW BY SANDRA LEE SMITH