“Grandmother’s spicy kitchen with its gay curtains, neat rows of pots and pans, and loaves fresh from the oven is a heritage granddaughter treasures. Around that kitchen centered the heart of the home. Through it strong characters and good communities were built.” These are the introductory words to a cookbook I was recently given by my grandma. Lest you think the grandmother referred to in the cookbook refers to my grandma’s generation, consider this: the cookbook was published in 1942. That means the granddaughter mentioned would have been my grandma and the grandmother would actually be my great, great grandma.
I don’t remember either of my grandmas cooking much, but even so, I treasure the vintage cookbooks passed down from both grandmas. Today I’d like to share a few snippets from the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook, which was published in Elgin, Illinois in 1942 by the Brethren church. This cookbook is a revised version of the first Inglenook Cookbook, which was published in 1901. As you can imagine, the forty-one years between 1901 and 1942 brought great changes to kitchens and grocery shopping, and thus a new cookbook was needed to serve a new generation.
When I opened the cookbook, the first thing I noticed was the Baking Table on the inside cover. If your oven didn’t have a thermometer, there was an easy way to determine the temperature: bake white flour. If the flour turned light straw color in 5 minutes, the temperature was 250-350°F. If it turned golden brown, the temperature was 350-400°F, and so on. The Baking Table also lists the temperatures and time to cook bread, pies, potatoes, meats and more.
Take a look at the recipes and you’ll realize how important the cooking times and temperatures are. For example, the recipe for Pocketbook Rolls simply directs the baker to “Bake in hot oven.” No temperature or cooking time is given, but the reader can always refer to the Baking Table inside the front cover.
I also find it fascinating how simple the recipes are written. Consider this recipe for Crackling Corn Bread:
Crackling Corn Bread
1 qt. cornmeal
1 c. sour milk
½ tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
Heat the cracklings. Combine rest of ingredients, using enough water to mix well. Add to the heated cracklings, stirring thoroughly. Bake in a moderate oven.
This recipe doesn’t indicate the quantity of cracklings or warm water or what size pan to use or how long to cook the corn bread. Reading a recipe like this makes me realize that much of what is detailed in today’s recipes was once common knowledge. I like to think I know a fair bit about cooking, but by my great-grandmother’s standards, maybe I don’t know so much after all.
Just as passing years bring changes in clothing trends, so they bring changes in food trends. A few of the recipes in the cookbook made me chuckle for that very reason. Take, for instance, Health Drink.
2 pkg. raspberry jello
2 c. orange juice
4 c. hot water
juice of 2 lemons
Add water to jello and let cool to room temperature. Add juices, ice and serve, or place in refrigerator in jar to cool after mixing with fruit juice.
The US has been known as a melting pot for generations, so I was curious to see what recipes were in the International Cookery section. I discovered a few Hungarian sweets, several African recipes that used peanut butter and taro root and many Chinese dishes. There were also four pages of recipes from India, which immediately grabbed my attention because Sam is from neighboring Pakistan. Yes, there was Dhal Curry with the traditional onion tardka; the funnel cake-like jalebies; and pillau, a more obscure rice dish (and one of Sam’s favorites). Who would’ve thought that here in a cookbook from 1942 Sam’s and my heritages would meet?
There are too many interesting snippets from my heirloom cookbook to share with you in just one blog post, so I plan to make this a regular type of post on my blog. I’ll still be doing my usual recipe posts, but you can expect more peaks into the past regarding everything from stain removal tips to canning and candy making.