Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cookbooks, Our Community Tomes

I walked up to my bookcase, as I do almost daily, and ran my finger over the dozens of spines that line the shelves. In the middle of the case, next to my DVDs, where I keep some of my cookbooks, I pulled from the shelves a worn, spiral bound tome of recipes, some dating from the late 19th century.

The Clarks Mills United Methodist Church Centennial Cookbook: 1883 - 1983.

It's about as old as I am. My mom must have bought it shortly after I was born, back when we were still living in Greenville, Pennsylvania. The recipes are from the members of the church and their ancestors and range from classic fare like Sugar Cookies (from Margaret Boyd) and Chicken and Corn Chowder (from Cindy Graham), to less conventional family recipes like canned coleslaw salad, Methodist Pie (which seems to be some sort of cheesecake) and a simple casserole called Election Day Special.

As you I read through the book, I find it fun to try and pick out recipes from different eras. "Is this a Depression Era recipe?" "Waikiki Meatballs, must be a post-war recipe from the whole tiki craze of the '50s." Other times I just sit and ask myself, "Who is (or was) Nate Graham? How did he come across the Weaver's Cake? Did he create it, or was it passed down from his mother, or his wife's mother? Did he have a wife? Could he even cook?" There are so mane stories in these histories and traditions, treats to help a mother comfort her kids during the Great Depression, everyday staples from over a century ago.

From time to time I can also see a few notes left by my mom, showing that a recipe doesn't work, or is something she needed to try. She used this book often. You can tell from the many stains, burns, and much discoloring through the pages. This cookbook knows its way around the kitchen, and has the scars to prove it.

Clarks Mills United Methodist Church still stands today, at 3813 Hadley Road, Clarks Mills, Pennsylvania. I sometimes wonder if they have made any new cookbook editions or if they could give me a copy of the lost recipes on the burnt pages?

(Bonus coupon! Don't thinks it's valid anymore, though, seeing as how it expired in 1994.)


This recipe was not only written on the first page of the book, but it was also circled, and the page is stained with the oversplash of repeated preparations.

Indeed, Strawberry Dessert (from Val Osborn) was a delicious treat that I remember well from many an Independence Day barbecue.

Strawberry Dessert

2 cups Pretzels, crushed
2/4 cup Margerine, melted
(I'm sure butter would work, too)
3 tsp. Sugar

Middle Layer:
1 cup Sugar
8 oz. Cream Cheese
Container of Cool-Whip

Top Layer:
1 large package Strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling Water
2 - 10oz. packages frozen Strawberries.

Mix crust ingredients together; press into a 9x13" pan and bake at 425° for 8 minutes. Mix middle layer ingredients together and place on cooled crust. Mix top layer ingredients together and place on top of cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate.

I've never tried this one, but the name always makes me wonder about the maker, Bev Carey. Did she only make it on Election Day, or was it a staple dish for her family?

Election Day Special

1 ½ lbs. Hamburger (browned)

4 tbsp. Rice
1 can Tomato Soup

Cut enought cabbage to fill a casserole dish 2/3 to 2/4 full. Pour meat mixture over cabbage and bake 1 hour or until cabbage is done.

Note: Bev doesn't include an oven temp, but I'd guess 350°.

Here's a Baby Boomer era sounding recipe if ever there was one. ^_^

Tang-y Tea

2 cups Tang
¼ cup Sugar
1/8 cup Instant Tea
2 tsp. Cinnamon
½ - 1 tsp. Cloves

Mix all together. To make 1 cup, add 2 heaping teaspoons to 1 cup of boiling water.