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Old Community or Regional Cookbooks: What Do They Mean to You? Amusement, Nostalgia, or Just Plain Horror About the Way We Used to Eat?


Tropicalsenior
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In a discussion of Recipe Bloopers @liuzhou and I veered off into the subject of how much culture plays a part in the way recipes are written and how differently recipes used to be written in our own countries and it brought this topic to mind.

You've all seen them and probably owned a few of them. Love them or hate them, they are a big part of our food history. A lot of the regional cook books are written by immigrants to their new lands that want to share their food Heritage with others. Sometimes they are so badly written or translated that they are practically useless.

The second group is the fundraising community or Church Cookbooks as they were called. Recipes that were contributed by the members; some of them could probably never boil water but just had to get their two cents worth in. Some of them contained real jewels, recipes that you had eaten in the past and never thought that you would see again.

What are your thoughts on these cookbooks and what particular memories, recipes, or laughs come to mind?

 

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To start with I want to give you one of my favorites. In an old church cookbook I found this recipe. The author was obviously a woman of few words.

My Tuna Casserole

Ingredients

One can of tuna

One can of mushroom soup

Noodles

Preparation

Cook noodles, open cans of tuna and soup, mix with the noodles, bake and serve.

 

I always thought that she must have been the president of the club or that she knew where all the bodies were buried.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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One of the instances of regional cookbooks was book called The Encyclopedia of Chinese Cooking. It was written by a Chinese chef and had a wealth of information. It had to have taken him years to write it. But the recipes were written in a format it was practically impossible, definitely frustrating for any Westerner to follow, especially home Cooks of the sixties when this book was written. How much more knowledge we could have had in those times about other cultures had they been better written, edited, or translated.

I remember some years ago when I got my first Mexican cookbook that was actually written by a Mexican. A friend of mine from California was reading it and she was absolutely aghast at this Mexican's idea of what Mexican food was.

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I love the community fundraising and family published cookbooks.  My grandmother was an easy mark and had one from every church and organization in her town - many of which included her contributions.  What I've discovered in looking over them is how many duplications there are.  The same recipes, tricks, menus over and over again - some even in the same book (I assume this happens because they don't want to offend anyone by leaving them out).  Most of the ones that I have seen are from the Southern US.  I would like to see ones from other regions and I wonder if other countries have the same publications?

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13 minutes ago, Kim Shook said:

I've discovered in looking over them is how many duplications there are. 

That seems to be an issue and so many of them and I think, yes, they just didn't want or didn't dare to offend other members.

And some of the recipes were so bad that they had to have known that no one would cook them.

They weren't just a product of the South. They were a nationwide craze. At one time I had cookbooks from all over the United States and some from Canada. Some were very well written and some were an absolute hoot. They showed so much about the organizations and the areas that they came from. I had one from a Country Club group in Seattle that was all caviar and lobsters. I had one from a small group in Missouri that was all Campbell's and Jell-O. They are truly a history of the people and the food of that time.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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I know that this is an old one that has been around for a long time but I found it in an old church cookbook that was raising money for their missionary fund.

 

Elephant Stew

1 elephant

salt and pepper to taste

2 rabbits (optional)

brown gravy 

 

Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces. This  should take about two months. Add enough brown gravy to cover. Cook over a kerosene fire at 465 degrees for about 4 weeks.  This will serve about 3,800 people. If more are expected, two rabbits may be added, but do this only if necessary as most people do not like to find hare in their stew.

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Two beautiful books that I go to quite often are Steamboat Entertains by the Colorado Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Back Home Again by the Junior League of Indianapolis.

They are both beautifully done and contain a lot of recipes from local restaurants.

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The only one i grew up with was from the local church. Big parish.  The recipes that made me chuckle were the ones so so reaching to be exotic; especially using canned water chesnuts and canned! bean sprouts and soy (soya) sauce to be oriental/exotic. Also a lot of cocktail part and "easy entertaining" recipes.  (now ya got me with David Ross loss on the mind https://forums.egullet.org/topic/161599-vintage-cooking-booklets-and-pamphlets/

 

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I know, I feel the pain, too. While I was searching to see if anyone had covered this topic I ran a cross it and read it end-to-end. He was truly a treasure. He was talking about the pamphlets that were put out by companies and some of them were hilarious and some of them were awfully good. I was a sucker for those and I was always lucky if I could find one recipe that I could use. But I still bought the next one.

 when it came out. They always put them at the head of the checkout stand were you could read them during the hours that you stood waiting to get out of the place. They were a real gotcha.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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28 minutes ago, heidih said:

ones so so reaching to be exotic; especially using canned water chesnuts and canned! bean sprouts and soy (soya) sauce to be oriental/exotic.

This was so prevalent in all the cookbooks. Another thing that was popular was the canned Chow Mein noodles. Anything that they could top it with or stick it in was Oriental.

Their idea of Mexican was also a little off. If they could put chili powder, cheddar cheese, or beans in it it was Mexican.

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I so agree, ladies.  I think about David so much when I look at my old cookbooks and magazines and know how much he'd love to see them and talk about them.  I loved how he saw food both from an almost scholarly point of view, but also from the view of someone who appreciated good food - fancy or plain.  He and I shared an appreciation of Taste of Home magazine and those check out booklets you were talking about, @Tropicalsenior!  

 

When I look at those booklets and magazines from the 1960s and 70s (when I was growing up), I honestly don't remember people cooking lots of the odder dishes.  I have a collection of Betty Crocker Recipe Cards from the 1970s (?).  I actually collected a set when they were offered back then - my first stirring of interest in cooking - and stupidly got rid of them in college.  I found an almost complete set recently and got them.  I did make some of the dishes, but most were just not things we were interest in.  Neither my mom, nor any of my friends moms cooked the weird and over complicated stuff I see from them.  

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3 minutes ago, Kim Shook said:

When I look at those booklets and magazines from the 1960s and 70s (when I was growing up)

Remember how good the Pillsbury cook-off books were when they first started making them? Almost everything was made from scratch and from things that you probably had in your pantry and then they went nuts. They were nothing but exotic ingredients and 'start with this mix'. I guess I was living with hope but I just went on buying them.

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