I have a thing for cookbooks. And especially church cookbooks. And especially especially old ones. Those church ladies have always been able to cook, haven’t they? I also have a thing for interesting tidbits of American history and enjoy learning how things were done and imagining the people. In the 80s I participated in putting together a church cookbook, and I bought enough copies so that my daughter’s could all have one once they were married. The recipes have become such family favorites that they are staples at gatherings and even weekday meals. One of my daughters wore hers completely put until it fell apart.
Years ago a friend from a writer’s listserv sent me a copy of a cookbook her grandmother had given her. Little did she know that all these years and books later, I would still be gleaning helpful tidbits from a booklet titled COOK BOOK compiled by THE LADIES of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Eureka Kansas, 1896.
From this little gem, I have used names, recipes and tips, and created businesses for the fictional towns in my stories. Cookbooks are pieces of history, especially those put together by the women of those early towns and cities. The advertisers who paid for space and thereby funded the ladies’ project were a diverse group. Leedy’s Dry Goods and Clothing House for example boasts the lowest prices guaranteed and quality unexcelled. Their tag line: Good cooking is most appetizing on neat linens. We have them.
Chas. A. Leedy sold dry goods, boots and shoes, fancy goods, clothing, and men’s furnishing goods. I have no idea what a men’s furnishing good was, but I am confident Mr. Leedy sold only quality in that line.
Interesting that listed among the directors of the First National Bank was none other than C.A. Leedy. Seems men’s furnishings were making him a tidy profit.
H. C. Hendrick called himself a dealer in pure drugs—my how the times have changed. No one admits to being a drug dealer nowadays. H.C. sold medicines, chemicals, oils, varnishes, glass, putty, fine brushes (my husband swears a little putty and a fine brush can conceal anything; he must have descended from the Kendricks). They also sold a full and complete line of fancy toilet articles, fine stationary, choice perfumes, books, dye stuffs and all other articles usually kept in a first class Drug Store. Prescriptions were accurately compounded.
Then there was H.C. Zilley, dealer in hardware, stoves and tinware who sold agricultural implements and wagons, with sidelines of furniture and undertaking. Why not get into the undertaking business? He already had the shovel and wagon.
Lewis’ Art Studio did photography in all its branches; proofs are shown and all work guaranteed. VIEWING A SPECIALTY. I don’t know what that means either, I’m just telling you how their ad reads. YOUR PATRONAGE SOLICITED. Those printers liked their capitals, and they had all kinds of fancy fonts. This place was opposite the courthouse, FYI.
Now, Frank B. Gregg, he sold Fire,…Lightning and Tornado… Insurance – and he liked effusive punctuation. Okay, this was Kansas, so that tornado insurance probably came in handy. Suppose Aunty Em took out a policy with Frank?
A.Frazer’s Transfer and Bus Line: Meets all Trains, All Calls Carefully Attended
Your guess is as good as mine here.
Miss Nellie Smith was pianist, teacher of piano and organ and a pupil of Rudolf King, Kansas City. Her terms were moderate.
W.W. Morris was another dealer in pure drugs and medicines. Also advertised were paints, oils, varnishes school andmiscellaneous books, stationary, window shades, wall paper, musical merchandise, jewelry, fancy and toilet articles. “We manufacture the following specialties and guarantee them to be the BEST articles for the purposes recommended: Calla Cream, Castole, Excelsior Compound.” They were located NO. 23 OPERA BLOCK.
The church ladies who contributed to this publication had wonderful names like Madella Smith, Eva Downard, Katie Addison, Olive Sample, Hattie Kelley, Lydia Thrall, Cornelia Newman, Mabel Mueller, Lulu Kendrick and Lizzie Bell.
A big percent of the recipes contain lard, and many of them, like biscuits and Boston brown bread, ginger cake and ginger snapsare items we could whip up in our kitchens today, with the exact ingredients and directions. Others—not so much. Like suet as an ingredient. I’ve only fed suet to the birds. And what is black mustard? It’d required to make cucumber catsup.
Scrapple: Scrape and clean well a pig’s head as directed in pig’s head cheese, put on to boil in plenty of water, cook 4 or 5 hours, until the bones will slip readily from the meat :::are you shuddering yet?::: take out, remove meat, skim off the grease from the liquor in pot and return the chopped meat to it, season highly with salt and pepper and a little powdered sage if liked, and add corn meal till of the consistency of soft mush; cook slowly 1 hour or more, pour in pans and set in a cool place. This is nice sliced and fried for breakfast in winter and will answer in the place of meat on many occasions.
As you can see the Methodist Episcopal Church Ladies have given me plenty of material for my stories. Little did they know so long ago that their contributions and ads would
be research and fodder for imagination.
be research and fodder for imagination.
My newest venture is indie publishing, and I’ve just released three of my earliest books for Kindle and Nook. It was interesting to read over the stories I wrote so long ago, and it was great to have an opportunity to tweak things and bring them more up to date.
If you have a Kindle or Nook, you can start reading any or all of them within minutes by clicking on one of these links. If you’ve already read them or plan to, I would appreciate all reviews.
For Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/awe75qd
On Nook: http://tinyurl.com/9wctgtc
In this tale of hope and love, too-tall spinster Thea Coulson wants to be a mother to a child who arrives in Nebraska on an orphan train. When Booker Hayes shows up to take his niece, a marriage of convenience suits them both. Thea’s dreams are filled with the tall, dark army major, but she guards her heart. Booker’s first taste of home and hearth has him longing for more, but first he must win the hearts of both of the females in his life.
For Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/b2rvcvp
On Nook: http://tinyurl.com/ajwb3p7
Joshua McBride returns from the war a changed man, ready to put down roots and plant his feet in the community. Prim and uptight Miss Adelaide Stapleton, leader of the Dorcas Society, doesn’t believe he’s changed—people are never what they seem. But she has plenty of secrets of her own—among them the inescapable fact that Joshua sets her heart to pounding and makes her long for his disturbing kisses. How long can she keep her own past hidden—and resist temptation?
For Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/atmqnbz
On Nook: http://tinyurl.com/avm23y6
Raised within the confines of a strict religious community, Lydia Beker longs for a simple touch, dreams of seeing more of the world. When handsome farmer, Jakob Neubauer and his family visit the bakery where she works, she is fascinated, but Outsiders are forbidden to her. Jakob is attracted to Lydia, as well, and she makes the difficult decision to leave everything she knows behind to marry him. He offers love and passion, but will she ever fit into his world?
Heaven Can Wait is one of the top ten January covers at http://ebookindiecovers.com/ in the Indie Cover Awards.