“One Hundred Years of Cooking”


Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

My mother brought me my grandmother’s cookbook. It’s one of those parish cookbooks where the women contributed their best recipes and household hints and sold it as a fundraiser. Paper cover and plastic ring binding, and complied by the St. Andrew’s Altar-Sodality of Tennyson, Wisconsin in 1946.

The first section is titled “Household Hints”. Gems.

Cut very fresh bread with a heated sharp knife.

When rendering lard put a little hot water and a little soda in the kettle before putting in the lard. It renders faster.

Large potatoes will take much less time to bake if left to stand in hot water for 15 minutes before putting in oven.

A discarded pocketbook makes a dandy first aid kit for the car or barn.

An inexpensive but most amusing rattle for a baby is crumpled newspaper sewed in a gauze bag.

The bloody water left over from washing fresh meat is very good for house plants (no salty water).

Throughout the book, Grandma made notes here and there. Sometimes dating them as she tinkered with each recipe. One such was updated in 1966, ’67 and finally in 1975. Most were corrections about the amount of this or that to use or to change the baking temperature. One cookie recipe has the warning “no good” in the margin.

Ice cream, pickles and soap – these women could make anything. In the section on sandwiches, they explain how to make the peanut butter itself before giving directions for preparing the sandwich.

One of the household hints involved thickening gravy. “Remove it from the fire before adding the thickening.”

“Remove from the fire?” I said to Mom.

“Oh yes, we were still using a wood burning stove then,” she said. “My mom used to bake bread three days out of the week and she always managed to keep that wood burning oven at an even temperature.”

It’s the dedication I love,

“… is dedicated to the housewife, the greatest contributor to the happy home. The recipes have been given by ladies from a thoroughly American Community, founded by our German ancestors, a hundred years ago. Our mothers, our grandmothers and great grandmothers, have all enjoyed the reputation of being good cooks and bakers. In this book we give to you the treasures they have bequeathed to us.”

Obviously there was still more than a little anti-German sentiment following the war, but I love the pride they take in their skill sets. Sure, at the time, housewifery was the female path, but they see themselves as important and what they contribute as worthy of sharing. It’s a legacy that’s been passed on to them and now passes through them to others. Very cool.

Dee decided we’d take a stab at the chocolate angel food. Helluva lot of eggs need to sacrifice their whites for this recipe, and there were a few too many bakers today, but chocolate is good regardless of how the cake turns out. And it was more than a bit flat. Whipping egg whites is an art. I can’t imagine how my grandmother whipped eggs by hand. These women must have had forearms like steel bands. I gave up and used the mixer.

Tomorrow, date pinwheels. A Christmas treat that when I mentioned it not long ago to Rob, his reaction was,

“And you haven’t made these ever because?”

Because I didn’t have the recipe and couldn’t remember all the ins and outs that Mom used. It’s one of those that requires making and refrigerating things in advance. It also calls for “shortening”, which leads to “rolling” at some point – this I remember from my childhood when Mom would give my sister or I a baking chore every Saturday morning. Things that needed to be rolled were never my favorite, and I suspect they weren’t favorites of mom’s either because at some point, we only had pie whenever DNOS or I made one.

1946 is a long time ago. The hundred years of cooking is closing in on 170 fairly quickly. I am glad I have the book. It would have been a shame for those ladies of St. Andrew’s to have put so much love into a book that wasn’t still being used.

4 thoughts on ““One Hundred Years of Cooking”

  1. I love this and I really don’t understand what lard rendering is so I’m off to google…

    I do know this though, eggs are about 25% (maybe up to 50%) larger now so I’d find some small eggs or cut the number of them for the recipes.

    I have a joy of cooking from the 70’s and when it asks for two eggs I use one or one and a half.

    1. Ah, good point about the eggs. When I made the cake, it said to bake it in a “slow” oven. Up here we are elevated enough that I have learned the difference between a “slow” and a “fast” oven.

      I love the language. “Scant” cup of this or that. It’s awesome.

      There are at least 8 separate recipes for fudge and angel food cake, and at the back, they included order forms if you wanted more books. Just had to send them $1.25, which I am guessing included the postage to mail it too you.

  2. Wonderful! I don’t have any family cookbooks, but I do make similar notations in my own — including a few recipes that I’ve simply drawn a big X across! What I do have with my grandmother’s notes are her piano books: Beethoven sonatas, Chopin etudes, etc., with her notes to slow down or to stretch her fingers (because it’s a big jump between notes on the keyboard), or simply that a piece is hard or lovely … along with the date that she deemed that she had mastered the piece. I don’t play piano, and neither of my boys do, but those volumes are a treasured piece of my family history.

    1. My grandmother was about 70 when I was born. She already had a gazillion grandchildren and playing on the floor with us or going shopping wasn’t something she did. Mostly, I can barely remember her speaking at all. She listened a great deal more than she spoke. I think the first time we had a conversation was when I began visiting her every night while I was out for my run when I was at home one summer during college. The home was right on my route. By then she couldn’t speak at all, but we had the best conversations. I would talk and she would gesture, laugh, smile and nod.

      After she died, I got only one thing – a hand mirror – that had belonged to her. My cousins sorta scooped up the rest. This last summer, however, my Auntie let Dee have Grandma’s red rocker from her childhood (it’s over a hundred years old and in remarkable shape really) and my sister and I were allowed to select any of the serving bowls or plates we wanted. Some were Grandma’s and some belonged to Great-Grandma. Can’t even begin to put an age to any of them.

      The book was a surprise. Didn’t even know it existed. Sweet treasure.

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