Museums have more than antiques

Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

j UC historical society Sandra Stickney with cookbooks June 17 2013.tif

Sandra Stickney of Elk Point, S.D., shows a few of the vintage cookbooks the Union County Historical Society has in its museum.

The Union County Historical Society hosted a program, “History of Cookbooks,” on June 17.

Did you know the first cookbook was written on a clay tablet in about 1500 B.C. by ancient Greeks or Romans?

It contained “very elegant recipes,” said Sandra Stickney of Elk Point, S.D., who was the program speaker.

In 1392, the French had a cookbook, “The Forme of Cury,” which gave instructions for cooking snail, frogs and such things, she said. It contained 194 recipes, showing the elites’ recipes for entertaining.

It wasn’t until the 18th Century that American cooks had their first cookbook published. The immigrants used cookbooks they’d brought with them, and up until the 18th Century, American mistresses read recipes to their servants and slaves who did the cooking.

The first cookbook published by an American author was in 1796, “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, an orphan and probably domestic helper. One fact in her book still holds true today: the smell, such as of meats, denotes the goodness (or spoilage) of foods, said Stickney.

The second American cookbook was written by Sarah Josepha Hale, who is better known as the woman who wrote “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” and campaigned for a holiday of thanks, which became Thanksgiving when Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday in 1863.

The third notable American cookbook was authored in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer, who was employed at a Boston cooking school. This was the first time a cookbook used exact measurements for ingredients, said Stickney.

From those vintage cookbooks, there is now a plethora of volumes, including types like “kitchen bibles” with measuring tables, baking time tables, and cooking instructions and household tips; international ethnic cookbooks translated into English; and professional cookbooks or “textbooks” for chefs and culinary experts.

Cookbooks have evolved into single subject cookbooks such as a “desserts” cookbook and “community” cookbooks written by families documenting family favorites or church groups and organizations as a way to raise funds for projects.

One of the area’s most popular cookbooks was the 1930s “Your Neighbor Lady” cookbooks created by WNAX Radio Station’s Wynn Speece. The small cookbooks not only featured recipes but creative writings of area women who submitted their work and photographs of radio listeners plus household and cooking tips. The Union County Historical Society has several editions of these cookbooks in their museum in Elk Point.

Other books in the museum’s collection include: “Kitchen Fun Cookbook” for children, dated 1932; “The Eleanor McGovern Cookbook”, which contains a collection of South Dakotans’ family favorites; a “College Woman’s Cookbook”, dated 1923 with some recipes of Iowa State University, Northwestern College and the University of Missouri students; one of the first tiny paperback cookbook-pamphlets published by a food product company featuring recipes using Rumford baking powder, dated 1926 and another, Oxidant Flour, dated 1944; a 1908 “Dainty Dishes for All Year Round” with ice cream, sherbet and punch recipes; “Home Canning & Drying of Vegetables & Fruits,” 1918, published by National War Garden Commission; and a 1926 “The Value of A Banana.” The museum’s collection also includes local cookbooks, including the Fowler Family Cookbook, Prairie Estates Cookbook and Lawrence Donnelly Family Cookbook.

Stickney noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture used to put out a lot of booklets on food management and recipes, trying to be sure people were cooking and storing food properly. Union County had 34 “Extension” clubs where each woman was assigned to go to a program and then bring the information back to her fellow club members.

One cookbook was newspaper clippings of recipes glued into a school paper-type notebook.

After Stickney’s presentation, members of the audience shared their “cookbook” memorabilia.

Mary Wilcox of Elk Point shared one of her favorite cookbooks, “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book,” dated 1963, which compiled favorite cookie recipes of each decade from 1880 – 1960. Her favorite recipe was “Ginger Creams.”

Alice Mae Kennedy of Beresford, S.D., told the attendees she was on the committee which created the centennial cookbook for South Dakota’s 100th anniversary called “Senators of the State.” It had a blue cover.

Area museums may now have some of the best vintage cookbooks….who would have thought?

Cooky Choice of the Decade, 1910 – 1920

Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, 1963

The favorite of Mary Wilcox of Elk Point, SD

“Most of the nation’s families still lived on farms and in rural areas where molasses was used more commonly than sugar. When chores were finished, children trooped to the cooky jar for cookies like these.”

Ginger Creams

1/3 cup shortening 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg 1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup molasses 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup water 1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 cups Gold Medal flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, molasses and water thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method* or by sifting. Sift dry ingredients together and blend in. Chill dough. Heat oven to 400 degrees (moderately hot). Drop dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. (Cookies will spread slightly during baking.) Bake at 8 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly. While slightly warm, frost with lemon- or vanilla-flavored icing.

Easy Creamy Icing

1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring

1 1/2 Tablespoons cream or water

Blend sugar, salt and flavoring (try lemon, almond or peppermint flavoring for variety). Add cream to make easy to spread. If desired, tint with a few drops of food coloring. Spread on cookies with spatula or pastry brush. Makes icing for three to five dozen cookies, depending on size.

*Dipping Method: Dip 1 cup measuring cup for dry ingredients into the flour. Take table knife and scrape off excess flour to have 1 level cup of flour.

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