Something Entirely Different - Cookbooks?
These cookbooks are little pieces of Americana. Not just for the recipes (and lordy, the recipes!), but the evolution of food, and what regions of the US ate what during certain decades. Time capsules of the American housewife. What was considered “De Lux” in the Midwest, or how those in Ohio pictured dinners in Southern California (burgundy in their canned kidney beans). I particularly enjoy reading the notes left by cooks in past years! “Steve likes these better than the others,” or “THIS is like the one I submitted!” In one, a Christmas gift, we learn that none of the women in a senior fitness group “like to cook,” so the recipes “are all easy ones.” The previous owner of one book enjoyed rice salad dishes very much, many carry a “VERY GOOD” or “GOOD STUFF!” I will guess her “It’s okay” means she didn’t like it and was too polite to say so! One honest recipe submitter prefaced hers with “This recipe sounds awful but tastes wonderful…”
I have nearly 30, with publication dates ranging from 1964 to 2012. The oldest one I used to own was a church cookbook of my grandmother's. The directions were unusual in that there were no standard measurements. Recipes called for butter the size of an egg and other such things. My eldest was given that book. The age of a few undated books can be estimated by the photos of the entrees.
There are recipes from elementary schools, from two local churches published for their centennials (sorry Presbyterians, the Methodists in town beat you by one year!), a high school senior project, an orchestra fundraiser, military wives, GE, the “Cranberry Capital of the Pacific” (Bandon, OR), a fitness center, several women’s fellowships, P.E.O. chapter, LDS Ward, a souvenir from the Isle of Man… and so forth! The organizers of school cookbooks need to name children by initials only. Some of the names are quite unusual, and for their privacy and safety shouldn’t be included. I blacked out names in the photos I’ve shared here.
Most are comb bound, others stapled, and one (Palo Alto, CA, 1984) is hardbound. This, titled “Private Collection 2,” features lovely wildlife illustrations. Although, I’m not sure I find it appetizing to picture a damp and smelly beaver pond while cooking Lemon Dainties! Another illustration is of a skunk. Nicely done, but perhaps the illustrator might have drawn fruits, vegetables, or general garden scenes instead?
Taste Buds All Year Long (1985) was published not only as a cookbook, but a guide to gardening. It’s divided by months, with weekly tips and recipes. The authors, or “characters” are introduced in a humorous way, right along with shrubs and slugs. Taste Buds was published in North Carolina, and I was quite surprised it was published in 1985, it looks more like the Nitty Gritty Cookbooks of the 70s.
Ducks Unlimited, in 1985, published Duck Soup, & Other Fowl Concoctions, (an organization whose mission I have always found oxymoronic) including recipes for just game birds - duck, goose, pheasant, quail, dove. Illustrations abound, from jellied goose to duck fried rice, and the dated, cringe-worthy ducks representing dishes from other countries. My copy was given as a Christmas gift in 2000.
George Washington in duck form illustrates the recipe for duck in cherry sauce!
A few of the books offer helpful hints, such as replacing minerals after vomiting, or the very important “What to do When an Adult is Choking,” which information is now obsolete.
Some more worthy of sharing further include:
The most unusual and pretty amazing, Cooking with Love from Cara and her friends, 1979. There’s a lot to this cookbook, so I encourage you to look it up online to read more. In short, when the author, or compiler, I suppose, was just 10 she had a relative die from cancer. She set out to raise money for the American Cancer Society through sales of a celebrity cookbook. She sent letters to 1,400 famous people requesting they contribute their favorite recipe. Boy, did they ever respond! Senators and actors, television personalities, Presidents (sitting and former), Mario Andretti, Robert Redford, the list goes on! Not all sent a recipe; Pope John Paul II sent in a prayer, David Bowe a note (as well as a recipe for Sha Bu Sha Bu). George Burns gave this meal advice, “If there’s ketchup on the table, then I know the food is good.” Bob Barker’s chili con queso… Tammy Wynette’s pound cake… Seventeen Magazine’s cookie recipe… Oral Robert’s Devil’s Food Cake… Ann Landers… John Denver… Hugh Hefner… Gilda Radner… Sammy Davis Jr… Carol Burnett… The Carpenters… you get the idea! Amazing to read without the recipes.
If ever a cookbook could be called pretensious, it would be Pasadena Prefers, from the Pasadena, CA Junior League, 1965. Oddly separated by activities such as lawn sports, yachting, or horseback riding. The chapter “Yachting, Boating, Sailing, and Snorkeling” is divided further, one for boats under forty feet, and one for those over. It reads in part, “In the first place, the average Corinthian-type won’t have much left to learn about galley management, and the average normal wife will…” Never mind what the “average normal wife" will want or not want to do on board a yacht, 40’ or longer. Leave it to Southern CA… I'm from CA, and don’t even know what a “Corinthian-type" is! Pasadena Junior League women must have had hunting husbands back in the day, there are quite a few recipes for dove. Come to think of it, quite a few books had dove recipes. I’m not a hunting proponent, but doves seem a particularly silly thing to hunt, as the recipes call for four per person. There’s quite a lot to learn in the chapter divisions. For instance, I didn’t know birdwatching “is done well before breakfast,” and birdwatchers need “field glasses, bird books, pencils, and notebooks… a shooting stick or seat cane is a useful adjunct,” but “A dog is not.” If you will be “riding to hounds” (really, Pasadena?), you will want black coffee, “fortified with spirits…occasionally drunk in a drizzle to quiet the nerves…” Only occasionally drunk in a “drizzle;” so the majority of the time you can just guzzle the spirit laced coffee? The Riding and Racquets chapter recommends the recipes for the “hostess who is well-staffed.” Again, really, Pasadena? THIS was life in Southern CA when I was eight years old and stuck in average normal Northern CA, with an average normal wife as a mother? Perhaps the Junior League there was really just another name for the country club set.
Military Officers’ Wives (just wives, for no officers were women in 1964) are featured in Recipes on Parade. Wives stationed in Japan, England, Germany, Taiwan, Korea, France, Scotland, and more, as well as in many US states, sent in husband friendly meat recipes. That was the goal of the times, as one recipe was even named, “Husband’s Delight.” Women didn’t have first names in the 60s, the wives who particpated are all listed by Mrs. Husband's name. Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Barbecued Spareribs kicks off the 2,000 “Worldwide Favorites.”
The Home Extension Club members in Nebraska were denied first names as well. I will assume that Ida and Alma were either single, or more likely widows. Certainly no divorced members in NE in the 70s! The bicentennial of the club publication, Cooking with Wayne County Home Extension Club Members is quite a hoot! Their “creed” is shown below. One of my favorite two cookbooks for the wrong reason. This and one from Ohio really “take the cake,” as it were, for my least favorite fare! Is it my CA roots showing? Is Midwest cooking really that much different from mine? Is Midwest cooking really like these? Am I a recipe snob?
Then are those recipes whose names defy explanation. One startled me until I read the ingredients. “Alsatian Meat” is NOT, I repeat, NOT made from Alsatians, also known as German Shepherd Dogs! It seemed to be made of any meat leftovers for the contributing officer’s wife, but on Martha Stewart’s website she calls for lamb, port, pig tails, beef, and wine, preferably Alsatian!
How about “Catholic Delight,” “Idiot’s Delight,” or “Mister Charlie?” An online search today will show “Idiot’s Delight” as either a ground beef mess with rice, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, too much celery and onions, milk and soy sauce. Or… a cake. What do I have? An appetizer for spreading on crackers. A chunk of cream cheese with either Worcestershire or Pickapeppa sauce poured on top. And that lead me on a search for just what the heck is “pickapeppa?” Ah, a Jamaican condiment similar to catsup, but not, as it also contains raisins, ginger, peppers, mangoes, orange peel, cloves, and more. Sounds pretty exotic for Ohio in 1971!
Senegalese has nothing to do with Senegal; it’s a soup nothing like the several found in these cook books. One, a can of cream of chicken soup, a soup can’s worth of milk, and barely enough curry powder to matter. 1/8 tsp might have been quite daring in the 1960s Midwest! This soup can be served warm or iced, in fact, one recipe, not shared here, includes adding a cup of crushed ice and blending until smooth.
Mrs. Cole submitted a recipe called Cole-Ferrell salad in Bach’s Lunch, Picnic and Patio Classics, 1971. Cole Ferrell happens to be the name of a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) professional fighter, which must be a coincidence, but who knows? Did she name the recipe for herself and someone with the last name of Ferrell? That seems the most likely. Bach’s also includes a recipe for “Bill’s Fatal Punch,” a suggested beverage to compliment the salad, which promises “no hangover after effects!
Watergate cake. There are a lot of different recipes for Watergate cake, but the one thing they have in common is 7-Up. What’s missing in my version is the pistachio pudding, and the inclusion of chocolate chips are not anywhere else that I’ve found. Pistachio pudding was introduced by Kraft in 1975, and they published a recipe for a salad called Pistachio Pineapple Delight. (Now, anything with pistachio pudding and Cool Whip is NOT a salad in my neck of the woods, but whatever…) A food editor in Chicago renamed it Watergate Salad, a rumor started and spread that it was invented at the Watergate Hotel in DC, resulting in a surge of popularity (although I had never heard of it before) due to THE Watergate scandal! It was said the cake had a “cover-up” of icing, and was full of “nuts.”
Watergate salad does remind me of another “salad” recipe dear to my heart. Not because I like it, no, it’s much too sweet and NOT a salad! Five Cup Salad is a staple in many of these cookbooks. My late mother-in-law fixed it for her high school senior son to take on his second date picnic with the girl he would later marry, me. My mother had never served anything quite like Five Cup Salad! My mother-in-law was not from California, so maybe it’s a regional thing? Even today people talk about California’s fresh food, often like it’s a bad thing. But, a cup each of sour cream, mini marshmallows, sweetened coconut, canned mandarins, and canned pineapple chunks (which didn’t used to come in juice, they were sweetened!)? A salad? Nope!
Speaking of my late mother-in-law again (and must I, she wasn’t much of a nice woman…), when she and my late father-in-law (an even less nice man) retired to a gated community near Mount Lassen in CA, one of the “in” desserts of the late 70s was Better Than Sex Cake. Oh, the giggles and elbow nudging that went on at dinner with those retired folks! I found the recipe for this cake in A Taste of C.I.L., published in 1993. Sorry the joke took so long to get to Ohio! But, it wasn’t much of a joke in the 70s either. It was mostly just embarrassing. Imagine being in your early 20s, visiting your retired in-laws, eating dinner with them and a group of their friends, only to top off the evening with Better Than Sex Cake. You can probably imagine. It was not the chocolate version popular online, it's this original boxed yellow cake, pineapple, vanilla pudding, Cool Whip and coconut. OMG… it’s just Five Cup Salad in cake form!
Did these cookbooks have anything in common? Yes! They were all quite heavy on the processed cheese foods, like Velveeta or those jars of Kraft. LOTS of butter! There were recipes for “Friendship Tea,” which sounds quite nasty. 24 hour salad was an offering in cookbooks from Hawaii (GECC Financial Services 15th Anniversary, heavy on fish cake use) and Arizona (Something New Under the Sun, from the Junior League of Phoenix, 1972). For your edification, 24 hour salad is salad you make 24 in advance, so it’s basically limp lettuce and bacon. The 60s were an era of casseroles, rice salads, canned cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soups, and anything that sounded foreign or exotic. Throw in the word "de luxe" or "glamorous" you have a meal fit for company!
The “Chinese” recipes aren’t, any more than my mother’s in the 60s were, although she had the wisdom to call hers “mock chop suey,” knowing it was nothing like what was available in nearby China Town, San Francisco! I never liked the meal, and would be allowed to eat something else. No, that isn’t spoiling a child. Even adults have foods they dislike and therefore avoid, my parents gave me that same consideration. I knew then I didn’t like mushrooms, or the strangely flavored sauce, although I did enjoy the Spam and sliced pieces of scrambled eggs that topped it off!
As I said, I dislike mushrooms. No, I hate mushrooms, as food. I am also not a fan of “jellied” anything other than jelly. Or Jello. Not Jello "salad! So, Jellied Mushroom Soup is my least favorite recipe out of a lot of strange recipes!
I think the strangest is Crispy Salad, which gets its crisp from frozen peas! That’s right, frozen peas. You make the salad at the last moment before serving, so the peas stay frozen.
I got a lot of fun out of finding a Tater Tot casserole in A Taste of C.I.L. (Kittering, OH, 1993)!
I should explain. I worked with a young woman the age of my youngest son (in fact, they share a birthday), and while telling me what she made for dinner the night before, for herself and her boyfriend (Tater Tot casserole), she asked me with all sincerity, “How do you make your Tater Tot casserole?” Up until that moment I didn’t realize there was such a thing as Tater Tot casserole, nor could I imagine why I would want there to be! Maybe some of you dear readers are big fans, and while I like a Tater Tot (which I grew up calling “potato poopies!”) as well as the next person, occasionally, and as a side dish to dip in catsup ala French fries, I just can’t accept there being actual recipes for TT Casseroles! I told this young woman, “I don’t make it.” Which was honestly hard for her to believe, and she went on to extoll their many virtues and reciting several variations on her original dish! I also found, in an elementary school cookbook, a recipe for Tater Tot Pie.
Bob, author of this poem in “Cooking with Thee Oldies,” (quotation marks theirs), must have been considered the “catch” of the time, what with his feminist views for a senior in 1996! The recipes were gathered from members of the Senior Fitness Center classes in Auburn, CA.
Here are a few miscellaneous recipes and photos of illustrations.
Arizona had some doozies
dividing chapters! There is nothing to tell the reader what they are, I can only assume they are Southwestern tribe dress?
One school allowed the children to illustrate and write out their recipes, while the others coldly, it seems to me, just typed them out. Look how cute the elementary students made their submissions!
Ah, the ever popular Tater Tot Pie!
I'm not sure that this version of a frozen salad is better than the one with frozen peas or not. Basically frozen Five Cup Salad with pimiento cheese spread stirred in with sugar and nuts. Sugar? Good Golly, it needs sugar?