I was really surprised last week to open the morning paper and read a story about Susan Graverson of Oneida and her grandmother’s recipe book.
The article was an interesting one and I was surprised because I had just sent my most recent weekly column to Valley News editor Andy Henderson the night before. The topic? My grandmother’s recipe book.
I actually have two copies of that cookbook. The most treasured one is the battered old “Collegiate Looseleaf Notebook” that I wrote about last week. Grandma could have easily entered the first recipe in that book shortly after 1908 when she was married. That little book has been in our family for over 100 years.
The second book of the two was copied from the first in 1956 in a composition book exactly like the one Susan is holding in last week’s newspaper article, but much less tattered.
My grandmother’s housemate, Inez, thought she was doing Grandma a favor by re-writing all of the recipes from the tattered book into a second book. My grandmother wasn’t as pleased as Inez thought she would be and I am really glad that Inez didn’t dispose of that original book.
There are a couple of other things that I wanted to tell you about Grandma’s cookbook. Throughout the book, flour is flower. As I read that, I was thinking that my grandmother probably copied it the way it was in her mother’s cookbook. I also noticed my grandmother’s unique spelling of “cukecumber,” “viniger,” and “jelley.”
There is also some good medical advice along with the recipes. From the inside of the front cover: “For nuritis get Nuritizone. For pimples – 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar in 1/2 glass of water or more. Take for 3 mornings then skip 3 mornings for 9 mornings.”
One more–Good tonic: Gray’s Glycerine Tonic. My grandmother apparently received that advice and recipe from “Brownie,” who could have been her good friend, Mabel Brown — Mrs. to me.
Many recipes in the book are clipped from newspapers and pinned to the cookbook’s pages with straight “common” pins. The recipes in Grandma’s book were undoubtedly enjoyed by many friends and family members — except maybe for the medicine and tonic.
Tucked in the back of Grandma’s recipe book is a copy of a little booklet, “Aunt Jenny’s Favorite Recipes.” I’m not surprised. “Aunt Jenny,” along with “Helen Trent” and “My Gal Sunday,” was a “must-listen-to-every-week-day lunch time radio show” in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was growing up. When I was at my grandmother’s house for lunch the radio was on and I listened along.
My grandmother most likely received that cookbook in the mail after sending Aunt Jenny her request along with a label from a can of “Spry,” Aunt Jenny’s longtime sponsor, and a stamp on the envelope.
Aunt Jenny’s little cookbook is a lot like her radio show was. She taste tests everything on her husband, Calvin, and anyone else who came near her house and kitchen, or anyplace in town, to have something to eat. That cast would include her sewing circle, her neighbors, the postman, and Grandpa Briggs at the Old Soldiers’ Home.
Looking through Aunt Jenny’s little cookbook reminded me of something that I thought was very special. A delicious treat that I remember from my grandmother’s kitchen was something that Grandma always had for anyone who happened to be nearby when she was baking a pie.
I never moved far from Grandma’s kitchen when it was pie-baking time because I knew that my patience would pay off with something delicious. That tasty morsel is listed in Aunt Jenny’s little cookbook among a group of recipes listed as “Uses for Leftover Pastry.”
In her cookbook, Aunt Jenny says, “I use my pie-dough scraps for makin’ these ‘little pies.’ My grandchildren are always beggin’ for ‘em.”
I can vouch for that statement.