When I started collecting cookbooks in 1965, I really didn’t know where to begin, aside from making frequent visits to used book stores. I didn’t know a thing about collecting cookbooks—but I had a1961 Cincinnati Methodist church cookbook that my father bought from a coworker and I thought there must be more like this, “out there somewhere”.
I wrote a letter to Tower Press’ Women’s Circle magazine in 1965 (a magazine for penpals) and mentioned being interested in buying, or trading for church or club cookbooks. Over 200 women responded to my request and I was kept busy for several months, buying cookbooks sight unseen or trading things like S&H Green Stamps – or whatever else the writer wanted. Many of those first cookbooks were remarkably good finds.
The best thing about that letter in Women’s Circle in 1965 was a letter from a woman in Michigan. She was a cookbook collector and she helped me find cookbooks; we became – and remained – friends; our children grew up, married, had children of their own. I went through a divorce and my Michigan friend lost her husband. A few months ago, she began downsizing to move into a smaller place, and has sent me boxes of books – not just cookbooks but other books as well, books about lighthouses (another pet interest of mine) and books about survivors of WW2. My cup runneth over.
After giving this a great deal of reflection, I thought that the best way I can show my appreciation for all that she has given to me – is by writing about some of these books.
I’m not sure whether I have more California church and club cookbooks or more if those from Michigan. The problem with counting the Michigan cookbooks is that they aren’t all in the same place – two of my largest bookcases are divided up as “east of the Mississippi” and “west of the Mississippi”. I know, probably sounds dumb but it SEEMED like a fairly good idea when I first came up with it. I have kept all of my California cookbooks together – currently they fill two bookcases in my bedroom and are double-rowed. Sometimes I have to take everything off the shelves to find a particular book. Before we moved to this house in 2008, I was in a much larger house and had the California cookbooks divided into two parts – Northern California and Southern California. Now they are all mixed up. (One of these days I’ll get them sorted again).
In a bookcase in our spare bedroom, I have all the southern cookbooks filling up two bookcases on one wall and on the other wall, I have all of my Ohio cookbooks (separate from East of the Mississippi) because I am from Cincinnati, Ohio, and have a separate collection of cookbooks from Cincinnati. Then I began putting the Michigan cookbooks on a shelf underneath the Ohio ones (although technically speaking, Michigan is ABOVE Ohio, not below it) – sometimes the sizes of books has a lot to do with how you file them on your shelves.
Well, as you can imagine, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. Since I first posted “Battered, Tattered, Stained church and club cookbooks”, I have been going through a lot of my books trying to determine which ones would generate the most interest. Then I thought it would be nice to have a discussion on California cookbooks since they are one of my favorites. (The other favorite are my Cincinnati club and church cookbooks.)
But before I do that, I think I owe it to my friend Betsy to tell you about some of the Michigan cookbooks. In addition to having had a Michigan penpal for over 45 years, I also have a brother who lived in Michigan for several decades, and two of his offspring have chosen to remain in the Wolverine State.
I visited Betsy twice in the 1970s – thanks to her kindhearted husband who drove several hundred miles to Cincinnati to take me and my children to Michigan to spend a week with them-one of the most delightful experiences, back then, was going to the flea markets where you would find all sorts of old cookbooks, often priced for as little as ten cents each. But, my brother and his wife hosted a family reunion there one year, and I have made perhaps half a dozen trips to Michigan over the years; twice to visit my mother who was in a nursing home in Grand Rapids, once for my goddaughter’s high school graduation, once for my sister Becky and I to drive around Lake Michigan, searching for Light Houses. Whenever I was in Michigan, I wanted to find the book stores. The year that my niece Julie was graduating from high school, her sister Leslie drove me to Ann Arbor – where she had gone to college – and we had a wonderful afternoon searching out used book stores as well as the ones selling new books – particularly cookbooks.
One of the cookbooks I bought that year, 1994, was “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” published by the Ronald McDonald House with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House. This is a thick spiral-bound cookbook with over 700 prized recipes. You may find yourself reading recipes for days but one I found outstanding is named “Sue’s Cheerios Snack”. Considered a great snack for tailgate parties, this is easy to make and would be a great snack for the kiddies too:
Pam cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick solid type margarine or butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 cups cheerios* cereal
1 cup Spanish peanuts
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 9×13” pan with Pam. Combine Cheerios, peanuts and raisins in pan. In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt until bubbly around the edges. Cook 2 minutes more (do not stir). Remove from heat; stir in baking soda . Pour over cereal mixture. Mix well. Bake 20 minutes. Turn immediately onto wax paper. Let Cool.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: When “Ann Arbor’s Cookin’ II” was published in 1994, we only had the one kind of Cheerios. I have been thinking this would be great to try with the chocolate Cheerios or the cinnamon flavored version. Bon Appétit!
One of my favorite Michigan cookbooks was not published by a church, club or any other organization –but it’s such a keeper, it deserves a spot on this post. The title of the cookbook is “WALNUT PICKLES AND WATERMELON CAKE” by Larry B. Massie and Priscilla Massie.
From “Watermelon Pickles and Watermelon Cake we learn that “The Massies are a husband and wife team specializing in Michigan history. Larry co-authored with Peter Schmitt “KALAMAZOO: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS” and “BATTLE CREEK: THE PLACE BEHIND THE PRODUCTS.” His other publications include “FROM FRONTIER FOLK TO FACTORY SMOKE” “MICHIGANS FIRST CENTURY OF HISTORICAL FICTION”, “VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” “COPPER TRAILS AND IRON RAILS”, “MORE VOYAGES INTO MICHIGAN’S PAST” and “WARM FRIENDS AND WODE SHOES: A PICTORAL HISTORY OF THE HOLLAND AREA.”
Priscilla was born in Kalamazoo in 1955 and traces her Michigan ancestry to Michel Campau, one of the one hundred Frenchmen who founded Detroit with Cadillac in 1701. Priscilla’s research, photographic, word processing and culinary skills allow the Massies to participate in a wide range of Michigan history projects…” What wouldn’t I give to visit that century old schoolhouse and see the Massies collections!
I don‘t know HOW many times I’ve reached for this book to check some piece of information It’s been a favorite reference book for many years. Subtitled “A CENTURY OF MICHIGAN COOKING”, this hard-cover with a spill-resistant cover was published in 1990 by Wayne State University Press in Detroit. And what the two Massies have done is provided recipes from church and club cookbooks dating back in some instances prior to 1900. The book is generously laced with drawings or illustrations of old-timey kitchen utensils – but one of my favorite features, I admit it freely, was the number of rhymed recipes including one my oldest finds for The Kitchen Poets, “Eve’s Pudding” dating from Detroit in 1878. One I will spare directions for is Perfect Mock Turtle Soup that starts out “Get a calf’s head with the skin on (the fresher the better) and before you say ew, ew, I want to add that an authentic MOCK turtle soup was commonly made with a calf’s head when real turtle was unavailable.
In the introduction, the Massies explain how their interest in old books was cultivated and grew from very early ages. They married and moved into an old one-room schoolhouse located in the midst of the Allegan State Forest. “Crowded within the main part of the structure is our collection of thirty thousand books, thirteen-foot high bookshelves surround all sides of a vast room. More shelves in the center of the room support a loft where Larry studies and writes about Michigan history…”
Priscilla has an attached room with a “Hoosier” cabinet (I had one when I was first married and didn’t have the sense to keep it before we moved to California); her kitchen cabinet was built in 1910 and is flanked on one side by a GE “monitor top” refrigerator made in 1932 and on the other, an electric range of similar vintage. They love history so much that they have surrounded themselves with period household furnishings. Priscilla has antique kitchen utensils, cast-iron Griswold pots and pans and other domestic artifacts hang everywhere. The Massies have fulfilled the dictate to write about what you know the most about. More than thirteen hundred recipes from Michigan’s past are in this volume, dating from 1820s through the end of WW2.
“Walnut Pickles & Watermelon Cake” contains SO many recipes – and I think I copied most of the rhymed recipes when I was compiling the Kitchen Poets for my blog, Sandy’s Chatter..
I have gone through this cookbook over and over, trying to decide which recipe to feature. I chose “Pickled Grapes” because I have seen pickled grape recipes featured on websites and blogs recently – as though a brand-new recipe. I made up a batch and it WAS new to me – but “Walnut Pickles & Watermelon cake have it dated 1899 by a Mrs. McCall in Kalamazoo!
To make Pickled Grapes:
Take grapes fresh from the stems without breaking and put them in a jar. For 7 pounds of grapes, take one quart vinegar, 3 pounds of sugar*, 1 TBSP whole cloves and the same of cinnamon bark. Boil it all together a few minutes, then let it cool until you can bear your finger in it; pour over the grapes, turn a plate over them; set them in a cool cellar and they are done. Do not cook the grapes nor heat the pickle over. If properly prepared they will keep a year and be as plump and fresh as when picked from the vines.
Well, I don’t have a cellar, and here in the high desert it can be a problem finding a spot cool enough. When I made sauerkraut about eight or nine years ago, we kept the crock in the coolest section of our garage which was in Bob’s workshop (attached behind the garage) and that worked – but I was making the kraut in March when it’s still relatively cool in the Antelope Valley.
If you want to make the pickled grapes you can keep them very well if you have a cellar or basement. If not, make them while the weather is still fairly cool.
*Sandy’s cooknote: 2 cups of granulated sugar equal 1 pound, so you would need 6 cups of sugar to equal 3 pounds. 4 cups of vinegar equals one quart.)
Another good Michigan cookbook is “OUR BEST TO YOU” compiled by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1984. This cookbook is in a specially designed 3-ring binder that enables the reader to open the rings in case you want to put the page on the refrigerator door so you can make a recipe. The pages measure just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length. I haven’t been able to find any pre-owned copies in the most frequently websites that I visit. My guess is that it’s out of print and you may have to do some digging to find a copy. However, you don’t have to search very far for this easy Beef Brisket recipe:
1 4-5 pound beef brisket
Dried minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups of water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash brisket thoroughly and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with garlic. Brown in an open pan (I use a large cast iron skillet for this) for 30 minutes in the oven. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 1 hour. Layer the sliced onion over the meat and continue roasting an additional hour. Add water and cover, roast 1 hour more. Check for tenderness. Cool slightly and slice.
Note: Brisket may be prepared in advance. Reheat in pan juices before serving ~~~
Also published in 1984 and using the same format – the 3-ring binder that measures just under 6½” wide and just under 9 ½” in length is from the Junior League of Lansing, Michigan and bears the title “Temptations.” In its Introduction we learn that the inspiration for the cookbook was based on the bounty of Michigan’s agriculture. The book contains over 500 recipes and here is a simple recipe from “Temptations” that is called Sesame Potato Spears. I love potato recipes that are not fried but are just as good if not better. This is the recipe for Sesame Potato Spears:
6 to 8 potatoes
¼ cup butter, melted (that would be half of one stick of butter)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp paprika
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup Dijon mustard (optional)
Peel the potatoes and cut into long strips. Melt butter in a loaf baking dish and stir in seasonings. Stir the potatoes to coat. Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour or until tender.
(Sandy’s cooknote: I am inclined to put the melted butter and seasonings into a plastic zip-lock bag and then put the potatoes on a Pam-sprayed baking sheet that you have covered with foil. That is how I make my baked fries.
Note: Dijon mustard will give it an extra tang. ~~
A third cookbook compiled in a 3 ring binder just under 6½”wide and just under 9½” in length that is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks is titled “THE HOUSE ON THE HILL” which is a bed and breakfast inn, published in 2002 by Cindy and Tom Tomalka. The Tomalkas tell us they have had over 3000 couples and singles visit the Inn since April 1997—who have consumed over 14,000 breakfasts.
You won’t believe all the recipes just for making muffins – now muffins are a favorite recipe of mine – and it was a muffin recipe I was following the first time I made muffins using my mother’s big yellow bowl – which I dropped and broke when I was about ten years old. Muffins can be sweet or savory and a simple muffin is ideal for a young child to make when they are cooking for the first time. Here is a recipe for Michigan Maple Syrup Muffins:
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cp maple syrup
½ cup butter, melted (*1/2 cup butter is one stick)
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, syrup and butter. Gradually pour this egg mixture into a well I the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir quickly. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overbeat or muffins will be tough. Spoon into greased mini-muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 30 mini-muffins
Another spiral bound cookbook published in 1983 is “CULINARY COUNTERPOINT” published by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Cookbook. This cookbook offers some recipes with unforgettable names, such as Hanky Pankys, Blinking Star, and Strip and go Naked! The recipe for a Ohio culinary treasure is BUCKEYE BALLS. (You will find Buckeye Balls at many sweet shops throughout Ohio – maybe Michigan too). To make Buckeye Balls you will need:
3 1-pound boxes powdered sugar
2 lbs smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 pound butter, softened
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ stick paraffin
Combine the sugar, peanut butter and butter and beat well. Roll into small balls and refrigerate, covered, overnight.
Melt the chocolate with the paraffin I the top section of a double boiler over hot water. Stick a toothpick in one of the peanut butter balls, then dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden. Repeat until all candies have been dipped in the chocolate. Makes about 60 candies. (I got my grandson, Ethan, interested in making Buckeye Balls and pumpkin pie–before he got too grownup to cook with Grammy. (sigh).
Amazon.com has five copies for sale, starting at $5.98.
I am often stymied when it comes to choosing just one recipe from a church or club cookbook-but the following might be good for company or something to getting cooking when you are home from the office and trying to get something cooking while you make up a salad to go with. Here is Chicken No Peek Casserole:
1 cup rice, uncooked
6 chicken breasts or pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 cup sherry
Grease a 9×13” pan. Place rice on bottom, place chicken on top of the rice. In a separate container, mix the mushroom soup and water and pour that over the chicken. Pour Sherry over chicken Sprinkle onion soup and slivered almonds over all. bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Do not peek. A fresh fruit or cranberry mold completes this meal.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: nowhere does the recipe advise you to cover the dish with foil before baking in the oven – but then it tells you note to peek. I would interpret that to mean it needs to be covered with foil. Someone else might interpret to mean not to look into the oven while it’s baking.)
Although I have many more Michigan church and club cookbooks, most are probably not available on the internet. I tried to stick to cookbooks interested readers might have a chance to find.
Happy cooking and Happy Cookbook collecting! With special thanks to my penpal, Betsy.