Do you prefer breasts – or nice legs and thighs?

I ran afoul of time today because of previous commitments. I like to call that sort of situation, “Life Intervenes.”
Wait, maybe that should be “I ran afowl?”  Read on and you can decide.

Today’s post is about a book that not many people know about — Col. Harland Sanders, The Autobiography of the Original Celebrity Chef.
The history is murky but apparently about the time Colonel Sanders sold his Kentucky Fried Chicken company, he wrote his autobiography and gave it to the new owners as part of his endorsement deal. It was apparently shoved into a filing cabinet and forgotten — for almost FIFTY YEARS!. Several years ago, an archivist just happened across it. It was edited and released as an eBook (PDF only). Frankly, I’m not sure it is still available, but in 2012 I responded to an ad in the store at my local KFC and acquired a copy.  It was a giveaway if you “liked’ their Facebook page.

A lot of people made fun of it, and I mostly picked it up for the recipe section. Yes, I’m a crazy cookbook guy and that was my intention. But I was between books at the time and, well, I read the book.

I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Harland Sanders led a very interesting life, with success followed by failure at least three or four times. In a way he was the epitome of the American Dream … a true twentieth century entrepreneur, always trying something new to find a niche. His combination restaurant/motel (I believe he called it a Motorcourt) was his most successful venture prior to KFC, spanning the thirties and forties, but in the mid-fifties he found his business abandoned by the Interstate system and once again, in his sixties, he was broke.

He had tweaked that fried chicken process over the years and thought he had something he could market, so once again he literally loaded what he could in his car and hit the road. He built that business from the ground up, selling the equipment, the ingredients, and the process in a pioneering franchising scheme that would influence the future many times over.

I always thought he was kind of a joke before I read this book. Not so anymore. He was a self-made man, several times, reinventing himself with the times. Say what you will about KFC as a franchise, but Colonel Sanders has one of the most recognizable faces across the entire planet. Alien archaeologists visiting the earth ten thousand years from now will no doubt think he was some kind of deity, worshiped planet-wide … his holy visage represented on signs, containers, cups, bags, plates, buckets, and even the snatches of media they manage to preserve.

And what did he really think allowed his restaurant to flourish in the thirties and forties? Was it the chicken? Well, people did like his chicken, there is no doubt about that. But, no, it was his biscuits. You had biscuits on your table before you had coffee. They were always ready, piping hot. Guests in the motel got a platter of biscuits when they checked in. He as all about the biscuits. It is the FIRST recipe in the cookbook section.  He was touting his biscuits long before he perfected the chicken.

No, I’m not going to share that recipe. It is one thing to share a 50 year old community cookbook recipe, but please understand, I’m not going toe to toe with KFC over copyright.

BUT, I do recommend they keep this cookbook out there. I wish they’d just go ahead and release it for free on standardized ebook formats. That was the only complaint I had … the pdf was a little funky on my Nook. It actually displayed much better on a computer.

No matter what preconceived notion you have about KFC, either the product or the company, just understand one thing:  HE didn’t make this company the way it is today. All he had was an idea, and he tried to use that idea to sustain himself in his old age. He started the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise operation when he was in his sixties and broke. He didn’t just create a recipe, he created a process and a way to perpetuate it that served as a food service franchising model copied by others. I said before I thought he was a joke … this book made him into one of my personal heroes.

Come on, corporate bigwigs … enough with these stupid “colonel” commercials, give us the REAL, real Colonel Sanders.


Shalom Y’all

People often call community cookbooks simply “Church” cookbooks but as I have pointed out in the past,  fundraising cookbooks encompass much more than just your neighborhood church.  Since two Jewish holidays have just recently passed, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I thought I’d share two Jewish community cookbooks today.  I just happened to pick up both of these at the last twenty-five cent sale.
imageTHE LOOK! I CAN COOK BOOK was put together by the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Sholom in Hull, MA and lists the publish date as 1979-80.  It was printed by a commercial cookbook publisher but there is one irritating weakness:  there is no index or table of contents.  This is a substantial cookbook, 300+ pages … so good luck finding anything without the index.  The front of the book is also overburdened with those helpful hints the commercial cookbooks often have.  I don’t mind a few of those, but they have pages and pages of these things you have to flip through before you get to the first section of recipes.  I have always assumed these things are stock add-ins you can purchase when you order — they must have said, “we’ll take them all!”  I think organizations usually get a few of these things, weights and measures and such, to boost the page count when they are low on submissions.  At they managed to add a few personal touches, like a special section with Hebrew prayers.
As one would expect with a Jewish cookbook there are quite a number of Passover and other special recipes.  I found a few to share but chose a couple of the off-beat recipes from the passover section: vegetarian chopped liver and another for vegetarian lentil casserole.
imageThey also had an interesting “intoxicated” barbeque sauce and a stereotypical “Foo Yung” recipe … there are a number of Chinese food variations in this book, not unlike other Jewish cookbooks I’ve seen.  Somewhere I have an entire Chinese cookbook put together by a Synagogue in NYC.
POT OF GOLD is the work of the Sisterhood of the Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac MD in 1976.  Although I usually love original artwork on these cookbooks, I have to say that the subject in the front cover drawing is worthy of almost any zombie movie.  Another irony is the candle on the cover … someone obviously took this to heart because the cover is stained by a fair amount of candle wax.  I never mind stains too much, as that is a good indication that the book was actually used.
This cookbook was locally printed and unlike the other one it has a a good table of contents and a very good index.  There are some personal stories included and like the other one quite a few Jewish specialties.
imageI’ve included one recipe for Hamentashen Dough and another for a quite interesting Caviar Pie.
Granted, neither cookbook is spectacular, but both have a good mix of common recipes along with cultural specialties.  Just your buck basic Church, er, uh, Synagogue Cookbooks.
Shalom, Y’all   (It’s both hello and goodbye)

A Cookbook Spy Mystery!!!!!

I will have to admit that I was obsessed by yesterday’s highlighted cookbook when I bought it, but after I came down from my Ozona high, I took a closer look at the other little ditty I picked up at the same time.

imageI could tell immediately that A Book Of Hors d’Oeuvre by Lucy G. Allen was old enough to be of interest.  The cover and style of the jacket all said either the 40s or 50s to me.  At first glance, while thumbing through the book, I interpreted the Roman numeral copyright (that alone is a good clue) as 1951 but when I got home I realized it was actually 1941.  It is a totally pristine copy.  I’m not surprised.  Lucy obviously just walked through a well-stocked pantry and thought to herself, “I could make an hors d’oeuvre with this, and with that, throw a few toothpicks in there and maybe the guests won’t stay too long.”

There are reasons cookbooks stay pristine for over seventy years, they are sandwiched between other books on a shelf that never sees the light of day and oxygen is never allowed to yellow the pages.  If a cookbook is actually used, things get spilled.  Find the biggest stain and you know what the previous owner liked the most.

imageThe one thing the book doesn’t have enough of is terrible pictures … it only has a few of those.  I never cease to be amazed at the awful state of food photography in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  One has to wonder how a photographer, author, or editor could look at some of these photos and say “Perfect!  That is exactly what we need.”  Yes, black and white doesn’t help but they would have still blown this photo in color, believe me.  They probably did us a favor limiting it to black and white.

imageAnd in this case, the “recipes” are not much better.  Granted, there isn’t a lot to be said about spreading a bit of tuna salad on a crispy square of toast.

Like I said before, there are reasons why a cookbook remains dormant for so long … they aren’t used.  Or to put it another way, they are useless.

Ah, but other treasures sometimes hide between those pages. It isn’t unusual to find clipped or handwritten recipes stuck into cookbooks, especially well-used cookbooks.  I call those FREEBIES.  This had one page of appetizer ideas typed on onion-skin paper — how long has it been since you’ve seen something typed on onion-skin paper?

But there was more.

imageAn envelope.  and inside, a couple of more recipes, a letter, and a telegram.  The envelope has a postmark of July 1956 and a great example of a three-cent stamp.

The letter explained the reason for the book and the other recipes.  The recipient, a Major DaSilva, was stationed at a “test squadron” at Elgin AFB in Florida.  His buddy was giving him some advice on hosting a 50’s style cocktail party.  All interesting stuff.  He even sent the book to help … a book that had obviously not seen the light of day in 15 years at that point.  Possibly not true.  Back then books in bookstores weren’t cycled in and out quite the way they are now and considering the fact that the war encompassed part of that time, it might have been purchased later.

imageAnyway, the letter has a few more tidbits of advice to accompany the book, all in an easy friendly banter that offers encouragement to the fine Major that he can do this thing he aspires to do.  But the Major obviously had ulterior ideas, hence the telegram.

imageI’m probably making too much of the telegram, but it is interesting. For one thing, telegrams are always fascinating to me.  They represent an ancient form of text-messaging.  Short, to the point, and for a long time the closest thing to immediate correspondence people had available.  The mystery comes in when you realize this is a Military telegram.  All the acronyms and terse military jargon seems to add suspense and  indicate other things are afoot, dastardly, evil, and mysterious things.  What are we to do, call the FBI?

 In reality, it looks pretty mundane.  A request has been made to make copies of a film of a test flight of an aircraft so that the contractor can make some observations.  Something called the XB-50.

Wait. What?  XB-50?

Thank Gore for the Internet.

After a quick google search I found an answer.  The XB-50 project had a long lineage … originally an advanced development of the B-29, redesignated B-50 to preserve funding because after the war ended (you thought the $6000 toilet seat was a new concept?).  Old stuff like the B-29 was being mothballed at an astounding rate so they couldn’t justify funding an advancement of an old design so they pretended it was new.  Bigger engines, extended airframe, bigger tail, bigger wings … it was meant to be an interim long-range nuclear bomber that could reach the USSR.  It’s concept was soon replaced by the jet age and the B-47 and B-52, but they had put a lot into developing these planes, so they repurposed them into a wide variety of other purposes and the XB-50 was one of those “new uses” — one of the first aerial tankers.  Major DaSilva was obviously involved in the testing of these conversion aircraft in some way, I’d say something to do with filming?

So, a seventy-five cent, truly vintage book yielded unexpected treasures … a slice of life from the fifties, a few personal recipes, and a bit of history.  Not a bad day’s work.

Oh, in case you’re interested, here’s a close-up of the stamp …


That Crazy Cookbook Guy has issued an OZONA ALERT!


Yesterday was a rainy day in NC so that meant no yard work.  I didn’t feel much like housework either so I figured it was time to hit a couple of thrift stores!   There’s a new thrift store in town that, for me, has had a bit of a slow start but I didn’t care when I saw this cookbook, Diamonds In The Desert  published by the Ozona Women’s League of Ozona, Texas.  I’m so used to the quarter sales at the other bookstore I almost fainted when I had to pay three times that.  No, not really.  Seventy-five cents is still a heck of a deal.
I could tell it wasn’t particularly old, but there was another reason I picked this cookbook up.  First, I saw the magic word “Texas” and I’ve made it plain that Texas cookbooks are almost a must-buy for me, but then I saw where in Texas and, well,  it struck a nerve when my eyes saw the word OZONA.
If one were blindfolded and taken on a long trip involving a lot of twists and turns, then they found themselves dropped off near Ozona, they would take off their blindfold and assume, “I must be in Texas.”  Don’t get me wrong, Texas has a vast array of different regions, but the area around Ozona is probably the most stereotypical picture most non-Texans have of the state.  When making that long east-west drive down Interstate 10, the big five landmark towns you pass are Junction, Sonora, Ozona, Fort Stockton, and Van Horn.  If  you’re going to get gas or a quick bite to eat between El Paso and San Antonio, those are your big five.  If you break down, you’re going to be towed to one of those too.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the name Ozona. For me I think it is because after driving for hours and hours I feel like I am starting to “space out in the ozone” or something and when I see that sign I think, “hey, I made it!”  There is an old saying, “The sun has ‘riz, the sun has set, and here we is, in Texas, yet” …  and that is really the truth.  Driving on Interstate 10 is so boring, one looks forward to seeing these familiar exit signs because they indicate that, yes, progress is actually being made.
The town itself is a little ranching town of fewer than four thousand people,   I’ve stopped a couple of times, mostly for food or gas or both.  There isn’t much else of interest to the traveling public. Life there centers around business and that business is ranching.  (if you are from Ozona and beg to differ, I’ll say now I haven’t made the drive in 30 years).
Not long ago I published a novel called The Fever about a guy searching for a lost gold mine in West Texas … he travels that same highway and every one of those towns is mentioned because a significant portion of the story involves that long drive.  Ozona is referenced a number of times because, well, like I said, I like the name.
Anyway, let’s get back to the cookbook.  It was published in 1987, but this is a 1989 reprint.  Both print runs were 5000 copies.  Remember, this town has less than 4000 people … and they reprinted after a 5000 print run?  Amazing.
What is more amazing is the fact that an organization with 52 members (stated in the introduction) put together a really nice hard-bound cookbook of 350 pages. Granted, there is not much else to do in Ozona, but still.  That’s not the cookbook committee.  That’s the total membership.
imageAnd where else are you going to find recipes for things like “Goat Fries?”  Hey, ranches raise goats and sheep as well as cattle and most of the males have to be, well, uh, er, um, you know.  It’s a long way to the store … can’t waste anything, I guess. If you’re squeamish about such things I suggest you skip reading the recipe in any detail.  Rest assured, this is just a part of ranch life … that’s what you get when you read a cookbook from ranching country.
The book is quite comprehensive, a bit like a Junior League cookbook.  I’m wondering if one or two members had a little JL experience prior to moving to Ozona.
image There are quite a few interesting recipes and they’ve managed a good variety as well, and through it all they never forgot they are in the Southwest, in cowboy country.  For instance, here’s a recipe for “John Wayne Quiche.”  1987 was firmly in the “real men don’t eat quiche” days and Ozona is he-man rancher country so this was a gutsy inclusion … but a quiche with green chilies?  Sounds awesome.
imageThis meatloaf hero reminds me of something we made when I was in the Girl Scouts (yes, I was in the GS — a camp leader when my daughter was a Brownie) — and seems an ideal and innovative sort of dish to make when out camping (or at home!).
Diamonds In the Desert is a delight.
I can’t wait to stop in Ozona for gas again someday.
Oh, and if you’re interested in my novel, The Fever, it is available for kindle at Amazon, and for nook at Barnes and Noble.  Amazon also has a print-on-demand paperback version.  Just search for Thomas Fenske.
You can click the title above to get to the novel’s web page for more information, or you can copy/paste from here:
Hey, buying it helps me keep this blog going.  .

Just Plain Unique

I know I talk about older and vintage cookbooks a lot, and really, I do concentrate on those when I am hunting through stacks of cookbooks.  I do.  I promise.


But sometimes one crosses my path that is just too strange or weird or otherwise unique to pass up.
Today’s entry fits all of those descriptors but in a good way.  A MEAT LOVER’S COOKBOOK was published in 2000 by E&M’s Fancy Foods in Chicago … billed as Chicago’s Premier Butcher Shop.  I don’t know where this place is but I sure wish I lived within easy driving distance!


The format is primitive, but it is endearing because of the amount of work that went into it.  All of the major recipes are accompanied by a fanciful caricature … and some border on outright weird but as I said before, that is weird in a good way.
For instance, I’m not sure how Spock fits into the Leg of Lamb recipe but … well, there ya go.

imageHere’s another example … they all have some silly accompaniment too.  Corny for the most part, but I like it.  According to the introduction, these recipes were originally giveaways in their shop.  It isn’t clear to me if these pages were the actual giveaways or not, but understand this:  the recipes look good.  I’m thinking they are all originals … using silly humor to delight their customers.

In my experience, a butcher’s life is food and most butchers are very good cooks.

Every page is one recipe, printed on one side.  They had the foresight to put “Notes:” on the back … plenty of room for you to add your own recipes. Some cookbooks give you a couple of blank pages in the back, these guys give you room for notes throughout the book.  A bit of overkill I guess but it is a good use of otherwise blank space.

I picked this up and put it down three or four times.  I have to admit, I don’t like 8 1/2 x 11 format books … especialy plastic comb bound. It is a practical aspect. You need big shelves and a book like this is fragile, but I am glad I opted to keep it.  Hey, it was a quarter.  The fact that it likely had a limited print run and it is very original means that it is likely fairly rare, like a good roast beef.
I’ll never know this little gem found its way from Chicago into a small used bookstore in rural North Carolina, but it has a home with me.

Presidential Aspirations … Crazy Cookbook Guy for President?

Well, let’s just say no and leave it at that, okay?

One of the problems with collecting anything is the question of categorization.   Cookbooks are vexing in that regard because there are so many options available to a collector.  Some are obvious like General Cookbooks and Regional Cookbooks.  Community Cookbooks have almost too many options available … church, armed forces, symphonies, museums, schools, almost anything you can imagine.  I have one somewhere that is from the school cafeteria workers association of Iowa.  Lunch Ladies? Absolutely.

I’m always looking for trends to focus on a unique aspect … I call some of these sub-collections.  One of my favorites is Bicentennial cookbooks … it was a very popular commemoration tool, combining fund-raising with the 200th anniversary celebration of our country.  Another is autographed cookbooks.  I have such a large number of signed cookbooks, that is another sub-collection.  A lot of them are even from cookbook authors nobody has ever heard of.  It is still fun.

This past weekend (25 cent sale!) I stumbled onto yet a new sub-collection idea: Presidential Cookbooks.


imageThis weekend I picked up a copy of THE JAMES K. POLK COOKBOOK.  If  you’ve lost count, he was our eleventh president.  Mint condition, 1978 copyright.  It might be a later printing but it does say First Edition (more on this later).  It was put together by the James K. Polk Memorial Auxiliary to help fund restoration of the Polk ancestral home in Columbia, TN.  Oddly, the very next day after I bought it someone on a FaceBook cookbook page (The CookBook Junkies) posted a picture of this very same book … she’s had it for thirty years and still loves it.

It is a very nicely done cookbook, and is even locally printed.

A lot of fundraiser cookbooks solicit celebrity inclusions and this one is no exception …  they solicited recipes from living first ladies.  We have Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie O, Ladybird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Nancy Reagan.  That is quite an array.

Wait, Nancy Reagan?  It said it was printed in 1978!  I guess it IS a later pressing!  Either that or the committee had a clairvoyant.  This is the kind of subtle thing you have to look out for when collecting.

imageMost of the other recipes are from the committee members and are a cross-section of Tennessee cooking.  I’ve picked one at random to share … another Fall-ish recipe:
Granny McCalls’s Gingerbread.   Love Gingerbread.  Who can argue with a something from Granny McCall?


I was on my way out of the aisles when I saw THE WHITE HOUSE FAMILY COOKBOOK by former White House Executive Chef Henry Haller.

I hesitated when I saw it was published in 1987, because that is outside of my usual preferred date range  …


… Ah, but when I opened it to check the publish date, I saw  immediately that  IT WAS SIGNED.  I pick up about 95% of the signed copies I see.  Thanks, Ruby and Jim!

In thumbing through this cookbook, it is obvious that it is essentially FIVE cookbooks, one for each of the administrations he served.  Each presidential family had different regional preferences and different traditional favorites as well.  He includes memorable menus (for instance there are quite a few special inclusions from the Nixon era White House weddings).

Chef Haller obviously did his best to adjust his menu to fit his clients’ preferences, which was no doubt why he served so successfully for so long.  I mean, my gosh, he served almost as many administrations as J Edgar Hoover!
Each section has a LOT of family recipes from each presidential family.  He also has no problem giving credit where credit is due.

imageI’ve chosen to share a Barbeque Sauce recipe he included, … he credits BBQ master Walter Jetton with the recipe.  I actually have a copy of Walter Jetton’s cookbook … he was the real thing and was one of President Johnson’s favorite cooks at his ranch … AKA — Pitmaster to the president.

As I said, I hesitated at first and only picked it up because it was signed, but as is so often the case, I found that The White House Family Cookbook has a lot to offer to my collection.
I think both cookbooks may be a good start for my new presidential cookbook sub-collection.

Fall Forward!!!! So how about some Fall-ish Recipes?

Okay, sometime yesterday we slipped into Fall.
When I lived in Texas we’d jump for joy because that meant highs were dropping to only the lower 90s most days.  Here in NC it isn’t quite that bad … but so far the weather has been enjoyable.
In a previous post I mentioned being interested in a recipe I saw for Cranberry Pie.  I had just showcased another cookbook several days earlier that had ONLY cranberry recipes so after posting yesterday I decided to check that one out too — you know, I did a little cross training.
In the meantime, a reader on the Facebook version of this blog suggested I post recipes from the cookbooks I talk about.  It’s a good idea but because of format variations, not to mention the fact that recipes are hard to type up, I’m still trying to figure out an easy way to do that.  This is one experiment to that end.
SO, in honor of it being the first full day of Fall, I thought I’d give you some versions of Cranberry Pie recipes from these two recently highlighted books.  It’s a slippery slope, because I found other recipes too!  Where does it end?  I want to entice and amuse, not become a cookbook publisher.  (or a copyright infringer — please consider this free advertising).
IMG_4474The Cranberry Connection came straight out of the bogs of Nova Scotia, complete with hundreds of tried and true cranberry recipes. The book lists FOURTEEN cranberry pies of different types, but only one called simply Cranberry Pie.  While looking at the table of contents, a different version caught my eye called Cranberry Church Pie .. here are photos from the book of both recipes.  Be sure to read the note wrapped around the Mock Cherry Pie recipe.  I left that one in because of the note.  I could have cut it off, but nothing irks me more than a partial recipe. Like when you get a recipe that has been cut out of a newspaper or magazine and you turn it over and say, “wait a minute, this other one looks even better but half is missing!”
Essex County Cooks was showcased in yesterday’s blog.
This cookbook features full-frontal New England cookery so the recipe pretty much has to be authentic.
Below, you will find a photo of the Cranberry Pie recipe from this book and I’m adding a second recipe just to be fair …  since I included three from Cranberry Connection.  Note, it is for THE birthday cake from the school.  Not “a” birthday cake … it is “THE” cake.  The note on the recipe explains, thus making it noteworthy.    Well, I thought it was cute.  I’m not arguing with the lunch lady.
These photos are straight out of the books so don’t blame me if there are problems.
Both books are 40-ish years  old so clarifications are probably not going to be forthcoming.
They look pretty good to me though.
I am now sort of leaning toward the Cranberry Church Pie but I’m wondering about THE birthday cake as well.

Remarkably Unremarkable

image image

Today I’m highlighting a couple of community fundraiser cookbooks, from the 60’s and 70’s.  These were twenty-five cent sale purchases, from one of the monthly sales a while back.  Maybe I’ll call this random draw Wednesday .. I just reached into one of my many tub and pulled them out.  Just to change things around a little: neither one of these is a “church” cookbook.
Essex County Cooks was compiled by the parents’ association of the Brookwood School in Manchester, MA and  Shore Country Day School in Beverly, MA.  It was copyrighted in 1966 but this is a copy from its third printing in 1972.
This cookbook has the fairly standard batch of recipes one would expect from the 60s and 70s … mostly made from scratch, with a few casseroles using cream soups.  Because of the seaside location and nautical theme they do have a lot of seafood specialties highlighted.
It does have some very nice period line drawings … old artwork that highlights the vicinity.  Hopefully “they” weren’t as picky about copyright infringement back then.  One interesting and unique design aspect is that rather than list the recipe source by name, the recipes are signed.  Every single one. Here’s a picture shows an example of both.
Just flipping through the recipes I did find one I think I’m going to have to try this fall … a cranberry pie.  Not sure I’ve ever seen that before.  I better go cross-reference with that cranberry cookbook I talked about several days ago!
The Best of Boulder II is obviously the second in a series.  It is a binder cookbook, put together by the Boulder Community Hospital Auxiliary in 1979.  The intro says the original book, “Best of Boulder,” was a small printing from 1971 … so for me that is another book I need to be on the lookout for.  This one also has line drawings, but these are original drawings of distinct local homes, all penned by a local artist.  It uses a menu format with recipes arranged by each menu … sections are separated by seasons.  These menu formats are confusing formats when looking for specific recipes, but they are fun to read.  Thankfully they have the book well indexed.  I’ve seen menu formats that weren’t indexed … good luck ever finding anything you liked again.
Both of these were locally printed … which I think is always a good thing.  The commercial community cookbook companies have been around a long time but there is an irritating sameness to them and if you see as many of them as I do, you’ll notice that a lot of them have the same cover since the local groups who contract with them are just picking from a catalog … ooooo, this looks like a good cover.
The binder format of the Boulder cookbook likely allowed for a reduced cost because the printer did just that … the printing.  The auxiliary probably had a big collating get-together — saving the extra expense.
The Essex County book is plastic-comb bound, but it is a very nicely printed book, with high quality paper and cover stock.
Both books are remarkably unremarkable, which for me means they are standard fare but they both contain some nice unique touches that give them more appeal than the run-of-the-mill stock community books.

That Crazy Cookbook Guy — Blast From the Past!


Normally I don’t care much for facsimile editions and generally breeze by them on the shelves, but in this case I couldn’t resist.  I picked this one up at a used book store in Lynchburg, VA Labor Day weekend.  It fit my “must buy” criteria on several points.  The facsimile itself was published in 1963.  It is not only about Texas, it is about Houston, Texas (my hometown).  It has tremendous historical interest.  It is cool.  Of course the twenty-five cent sales have sort of spoiled me, but this was one I just had to have, even at five bucks.

The facsimile is called The First Texas Cookbook.   The original, in 1883, was The Texas Cookbook.   The book was originally put together by the fine ladies of the First Presbyterian Church in Houston.

Yes.  You read that right — A church cookbook fundraiser published in 1883!  The subtitle is “A thorough treatise on the art of cookery.”

I have read that the bays of the gulf coast were once teaming with oyster fishermen … it was a major locally sourced product and even specific fisheries were featured for their special tastes and qualites.  Don’t get me wrong, it still is, but these days the oyster business is more generic and more controlled.  I now have a better understanding of that subculture after leafing through the book.  There are a LOT of oyster recipes.  And, as one would expect in Texas, there are a lot of beef/steak recipes as well.

Like a lot of nineteenth century recipes, they are presented informally with no ingredient list, so a lot is left to the imagination of the reader.  That also means there is room for a lot of recipes … several per page.  Take one recipe (one I might try, BTW) “An Interesting Way to Prepare Beefsteak.”  Basically it is a stuffed/rolled steak.  Season it, spread a thick layer of mashed potatoes, roll it up and skewer it, roast it.  I love it.

The facsimile itself is in mint condition — WITH dust jacket.  The art of the community cookbook was obviously well-established in 1883 … they funded the printing with ads — pages and pages of ads, wonderful ads.  As I browsed through the ads I imagined my great-great grandmother & grandfather walking through downtown Houston shopping on a Saturday afternoon.


Would I prefer an original?  You bet I would!
Will I accept a fifty-two year old facsimile?  Absolutely.

That Crazy Cookbook Guy–It Takes A Community to Raise a Cookbook


I’m sharing three selections today, all community cookbooks purchased during this weekend’s hunting expedition.  I’m combining several because I spent a LOT of money over there, almost eight bucks.
I know, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money to spend on cookbooks, but don’t forget, this was twenty-five cent weekend!
A lot of people call these church cookbooks.  As it happens two of today’s listings are church cookbooks, but one is an older Junior League cookbook.  In fact, I like to call these types of cookbooks fundraisers.  They do tend to pull recipes from some sort of community, but they run the gamut and include almost any kind of organization one could imagine. My wife and I actually put together a fundraiser cookbook once for a non-profit dance group our daughter was associated with, so I have an intimate understanding of how tough it is to solicit the recipes, transcribe the recipes, to organize it so it makes sense.  The toughest job of all is copy-editing and proofreading.  Whew.  And that is not unique, I’ve seen dozens of fundraiser books from dance groups.
Shallowford Cooking is from the Shallowford Church of Christ in Elon NC, which is not that far from where I live.  It has no date (ONE OF MY PET PEEVES) and it really has no indication of where it is located either (ANOTHER PET PEEVE). I did a little research on this one and found the church location and the fact that it was apparently published in the 60’s sometime.   From what I’ve learned about dating these, I’d say from the look and feel of it, that is probably an accurate date, more likely later 60s.  The credits for the recipes are mixed with first names (Betty Smith) and a variety of personal titles (Mrs. Betty Smith or Mrs. John Smith).  I have found older books generally tend toward a more formal personal title (Miss Betty Smith or Mrs. John Smith).  As I said, these are mixed.
It also has some design functions that are consistent with older cookbooks.  It has original artwork on the front cover, something you see less and less over time.  I love original artwork.   Since it is from pre-word processor days, it was painstakingly typed and (I assume) locally printed.  All of that is a lot of work as well.
What is unusual about this book is that it has a star, Marie Koury, who even has her picture in the front of the first section … “Marie Koury’s Section” … usually church fundraisers might at best have a picture of the church itself, or they might  have either a picture of the pastor’s wife (also known as sucking up) or of some local cook of renown who recently passed away (the only way her heirs would give us that killer blackberry cobbler recipe of hers).
Marie was listed as the first of four editors but is the only one with her own section, which is almost half of the book.  I did a little research on her and found that she has some measure of local fame. Big fish in small pond I guess.  I also assume she has some Greek heritage because she has quite a few Greek recipes. I read on-line that as of about 2009 she was still around and was signing copies of volume 7 of this cookbook.  Kudos to you, Marie!
The second book has one of the longest titles I’ve ever seen.  Well, to be entirely accurate, it has no title.  That “Kissing Wears Out” thing in the picture is stock cover art from a packaged fund raising cookbook publisher – you see that one a lot.  This is from the Catholic Daughters of America, Court Our Lady of the Lakes No. 1456, in Parsippany NJ.
Whew, what a mouthful.  Although I was raised a Catholic, I haven’t heard of this group but the fact that this is from the 1456th chapter … well, that is a lot of Catholic daughters.  This was a copyright 1978, but looks absolutely pristine.  Remember what I was saying about personal titles above?  This one … is true to 1978:  names only.  Beyond these observations, it is a fairly typical fundraiser fare. Not a bad cookbook though.
The third book is Marigolds to Munch On.  This is a Junior League cookbook from Peoria Illinois.  I generally like Junior League cookbooks, but prefer older ones.  This fits that mold … it is from 1970.  The book has a very irritating design aspect .. it is evident on the cover and continues on every chapter title and recipe title throughout the book: they color in every letter that has a closed space.  That includes a,o,O A e ..on and on and on.  Maybe they had an obsessive/compulsive member on the cookbook committee?  . “Here’s a job for you, Harriet!”  That must have been a lot of work.
Once again, pretty typical fare for a Junior League, i.e., lots of recipes that have foreign sounding titles but don’t look particularly foreign.  Well, it was after all 1970.  The entire world was foreign to Peoria in 1970.
Now this one features formal personal titles, but I assume that was still a Junior League design standard at the time