Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grandma's Cookbooks

Not long ago, I was given my late grandmother's cookbooks by my mother.

I just love them. They are proper working kitchen cookbooks with good solid recipes in them.

The first one is the Grace Lutheran Church, Fargo, North Dakota circa 1939.

The cover is off this one but I love it just the same.
This book's recipes are the shortest of all the books, coming from North Dakota kitchens in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The recipes are merely lists of ingredients. The assumption is that only other industrious housewives will be using this book and they'll know how to cook.

The next cook book is The Cook's Book of favorite recipes. It is another locally produced cook book from Fargo. All the recipes in this book, as in all the others have credited the housewife who submitted the recipe. This book was obviously well used. There are lots of grease spots on the pages. In addition, there are notes written in the margins and recipes added in on the end paper in my grandmother's tidy handwriting.

The last of the old books is the Cook Book - Edition III created by The First Lutheran Ladies Aid, Fargo, North Dakota. I think this last one is my all time favourite. It is my favourite for a few reasons;
1. It has the most recipes written on the pages and margins.
2. It had the greatest number of old articles and recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines tucked in between the pages.
3. It has a section on Norwegian Delicacies.
Going through the pages of these books is like peeping into the kitchens of 1930's through to the 1950's. The women stayed at home and did all the cooking. As there were no prepared foods available, only ingredients, they made everything. Ketchup, pie crusts, dinner rolls, pickles and cookies. No buying a box of cookies, you made them. As everything was made all the time, these recipes are very short on instructions and are mostly just lists of ingredients. The cook books assume you have the experience and common sense just to make these things.
I laughed at one recipe for Parker House Rolls. it gave the list of ingredients with the instructions to dissolve the cake of Fleishman's yeast (I don't think yeast is still available in cake form, it's all activated dried yeast now) in warm water, then it lists the other ingredients with the instruction Make rolls. Let raise 3 hours. No oven temperature was listed either, not even "moderate oven".
Going through the recipe books, I discovered a recipe that I remembered from my childhood. Orange Delights, a delicate and light orange cookie topped with orange flavoured icing. I made a batch of these cookies up a few weeks ago, just before we went hill walking. The Orange Delights were just as comforting as I had remembered them to be.
One of the articles that is tucked into one of the cookbooks is gleaned from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, April 1932. The article is about how to remove marks from wooden floors and repair scratches on furniture. If anybody was to follow these instructions, I would recommend doing it in the summer with all the doors and windows open as it requires the use of high-test gasoline, naphtha or benzine to remove the old varnish.
I would like to thank the women of the First Lutheran Ladies Aid for producing this book, more specifically, the Cook Book Committee from somewhere back in the 1930's.
Mrs Stella Krageland, Chairman
Mrs O O Jacobson
Mrs M G Bean
Mrs C B Paulson
Mrs L M Braaten
Mrs E K Onstad
Mrs Sanborn Olson
Mrs Norris Larson
Good Scandinavian names.
There must have been moments of awkwardness for Catholic families, including my own, the Dwyer family out there in a sea of Norwegian Lutherans on the North Dakota plains but one can find a real sense of friendship in these old community produced cookbooks.
Thanks again, Mom for giving me these wonderful cook books and thank you for the recipe contributions you have added.

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