Sunday, November 10, 2013

CookBook Memories and Musings

Recently I found a cook book of interest to me and while I was Listing it in my Etsy Store, SwedishGalsAttic, I opened it to find a notation, "To Ablre from Beatie, Xmas 1935,
with Yuletide Greetings!

This book was the 1934 edition of the Rumford Complete Cookbook by Lily Haxworth Wallace.
The Rumford Chemical Co of Rumford R.I., NO , not a typo, yes a  Chemical company. Remember the Can of Rumford in everyone's closet, I do. They entered the culinary market in 1908 and had a dept of Home economics where the recipes in the original cook book were tested. In 1900 Lily Haxworth Wallace, who was a graduate of the National Training School of Cookery, London, England, emigrated to the U.S. and went to work for Rumford. She became a guru and famous cookbook writer, and author during  the first half of the 20th century in the US.

All of this because I acquired this green cook book with a remembered name!  I am not a collector of cook books, but have a lot of them, only because I love to cook. This sent me scurrying to find some of my own older books to see what I would find inside. I never realized and always took for granted notations I found in my books, which almost always belonged to someone else.

I chose to single out a few things that interested me and why they had invaded my own personal memory bank.  Once I began the journey I found it difficult to stop, one thing would always lead to another.
This tattered copy of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking Mr. Dude and I found in a box of things lovingly left for me to look at by His Aunt Ethel who we all referred to as Tanta.  She had kept and used this book since 1934, when she married a man with a German heritage.  Her sweet note to me says" Read this Book, Cute Illustrations and Explanations" . It is put together with scotch tape and shows its wear, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters, is that every time I read this message in her handwriting, her face appears before me and I remember!

For a number of years I was very active in Vasa,  a Swedish Organization. There were many other representatives of other Scandinavian Countries  who also belonged to our  Lodge. One day while making Ƅrtsoppa or Pea Soup as we say in America, in the kitchen for our Club's Thursday Ƥrtsoppa lunch, a lovely and elegant woman, I only knew as Mrs. Olsen came up to me and said I want to give you something. She presented me with her, well worn copy of , "Julejentenes Kokebok" from the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Chicago, Ill. In the front of this book is the Norwegian Prayer for the dinner table.
The book has been much used and I chuckle a little when I see the notations after some of the recipes, the emphatic GOOD with exclamation point for the waffle recipe by Lillian Erickstein must really be special.  I have not tried that but I have actually used many recipes in this book. The recipes are all very similar to my own background, but the best part is the memory of  the elegant kind woman, with the lovely accent, who was taking the younger member under her wing, and I remember!
 One day while shopping at an estate sale, I saw this poor little book in the trash bin. I did not know what it was because the outside of the book was really a mess, but  out of  respect for the written word, rescued this from the trash bin and asked the person in charge if I could have it. This poor misused little hard cover book, turned out to be " A calendar of Dinners" with 615 recipes by Marion Harris Neil. This was a 1925 copy and was produced By Crisco, a Proctor and Gamble Product.  The first 5 pages were the story of Crisco and its manufacture. Wonderful little tidbits of information on many subjects, Their presentation is sometimes amusing, even though that was not their intention. Their intention was to educate and  reassure the home cook in 1925. This was the 25th edition so I am assuming that this was popular. In any event I had to keep it, and I will always remember how I acquired it.
I have had this little book so many years now, I cannot remember how I acquired it, it has always been a favorite. It is the "Standard Diary Reminder" and the date is 1927. I do know that I have left everything as I found it. Every page is a hand written recipe, all in 1927. I don't know who the owner was, but have imagined many times, who she was--where was she from, did she have children? I am certain she had many friends and she loved to cook. She lists a macaroon recipe by M. Hall, Cora Besson"s Molasses cake, Gussie H's Potato Cake.  Have you ever wondered who these people were and where are their families now? What turns did their lives take? Do the people that came after them still use their recipes? Toward the end of the book the writing changed and it left a question mark in my musing--did someone take over her job of recording, did she ask the contributors to write out their own recipe? Did something happen in her life that made it impossible for her to continue.  The life of this woman was so recorded in every page. This book was started in January 1927.  July 4 1927 Beatrice wrote the last recipe for Cream Filling. This wonderful little documentary of someone's culinary life is kept in a safe spot in my desk. I hope that someday someone will enjoy it as much as I have.

My maternal Grandmother had a great influence in my life. I was the oldest of three children and her first Grandchild , we  spent a lot of time together. She was a great influence in many aspects of my life. A deeply religious woman, she was instrumental in my own religious life. She had been a single mother long before we even heard that term. My Grandfather had been dead before I was born. She owned a very successful restaurant before woman "did things" like that. By the time I came along, she no longer had the restaurant , was semi retired and served lunch to some of her regular customers in her very large dining room. Many times she was just taking care of them with a hot meal.  My job, when I was there, was to know how to set the table properly, and help her serve, then help with the dishes, which I learned had a system to it. No mechanical dish washers in those days!  My Grandmother lived into her 80s, when the years of hard work caught up with her and she went to sit at the feet of her Master and Savior.  In going through her things, I found an interesting book that she used, on a daily basis to document her caning schedule.
This page starts in May of 1942 , but two pages before that was the canning schedule of 1939. Left over Parowax labels by Tavern were still in the book. I knew that she worked very hard and the stove was always on, but as a young child we never really put it all together. She was a wonderful cook, and taught my Mother and my Mother's brother how to cook.They both worked in the restaurant when they were young. They in turn were instrumental in teaching me to love the art of good food. I will be forever grateful for that. Mrs. Roberts was well known in her town, and even at the end of her life, while in the hospital,  was reminding me to deliver an apple pie to a man I had known all my life, who was now a "shut In". Isn't it a wonder how some people are always the :Givers" in life and others do not seem to know how to be?

Evidently Her market, "Foley's Market" who promised prompt Deliveries, would send out a postcard of their weekly or monthly, not sure which, price structure and specials.  Thought you might get a chuckle out of this one--my oh my--how things have changed! Imagine that-- leg of lamb, domestic too, 25 cts a lb. I can't remember when I have been able to afford a leg of lamb these days. 
Thank you for following me through my blog of some of my memories.  I hope that this encourages all of you to take a second look at all of your treasures, and fantasize about the people who once owned that special little book that you now own.


  1. Oh my goodness! These are so wonderful! I have cookbooks from my mother and grandmother and I, too, love to read the notes in them.

  2. It opens up a different dimension to store in your memory bank! I love them!
    Thank you Kathy for reading and commenting.

  3. Sigh, now I'm wondering what happened to my grandmother's recipe book. She passed it on to my mother when we came to the states in 1954. I'll never forget the day I was looking through it and found the recipe for "Dulce de Leche". Thanks for stirring up more memories, Sandy.