Memories: Old Cookbooks

by Gaynelle Callaway

I have a love affair with old cookbooks. I can find myself lost in the recipes. I read the old ads, remembering what it is like to buy everything at one store, not the malls of today, but little country stores, where you could buy coffee, tea, sugar, flour, spices, and a pair of overalls to cover your rear. I remember the two and three story ones from my childhood.

I went to the flea market yesterday and found a treasure, an old cookbook, 1931, Dungannon Community CookBook from VA. I have really enjoyed looking over the old recipes, love it when it reads to "use some lard the size of a hen's egg".

I read the recipes, remembering as the hog was butched, how we scraped the hair off after it was immersed in a drum of boiling water, how the head was saved to make head cheese, and the rendering of the lard,and the love of fresh cracklins and cornbread. Pages of memories open to me as I read them.

"Scald one-half pint of sweet milk", and I remember the old cow, Bessie. She loved to switch my face with her tail, and a time or two, I got kicked in the ear. I remember grandpa squirting a stream of milk towards the cats, as they meowed loudly, each wanting a lick of milk.

"Cream butter till fluffy" and I can picture grandma sitting on a stool, the old butter churn beside, up and down with the paddles, until the tiny golden dots began to appear, and soon, there was sweet, churned butter, and buttermilk to drink. The butter was put into wood butter molds so it would look pretty. Memories, down memory lane I go.

"Stone the dates".....or break a tooth, reminds me of cleaning the beans, and when we would string almost dry beans for leather britches, I can remember the little spiders that would pop out and run across grandma's floor, giving me shivers, and her laughing at me. Where has time gone? How many years has grandma been gone now? Memories, still alive, remind me of her, and if I close my eyes and breathe deep, I can smell her lilac perfume. She is always close, as close as I breathe. Her love always remains around me.

"Everything is level measure"....."For measuring, use a cup larger than ordinary size such as a glass goblet". There aren't many of them around these days, but I still have about a dozen ice tea goblets found at garage sales, their big bowls and frosted grapes on the outsides. Old timey tea glasses. I remember the homemade sun tea with fresh mint or fresh lemon slices. I remember grandma standing on top of the hill, we lived at the bottom of the hill, and she would wave the teapot back and forth, time to climb up to the top of the hill and have tea and biscuits with grandma.

"Do not stop folding the egg whites in until the cake is at the oven door" Priceless advice, "Get the cake in the oven at once and do not open the oven door for 20 minutes, and do not jar the stove". Sage advice from the years past speak to me.

I delight in the writings, knowing the love special ladies have passed down from years ago. How precious they seem to me, caring, loving , great cooks, teaching, helping, measuring, and baking.

"Line pie tins with pastry" many of us still love the old cooking utensils and pans of the past. Some of my old pie tins have names of by-gone products embossed on them. I love the old things. Cooking from "scratch" used to be a way of life. You had to grow your own food, have your own gardens, grow your own livestock, or have a hunter in the family.

There is a recipe in the book from THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON,DC. It is for Spaghetti Croquettes.....the recipe from Mrs. Herbert Hoover. I laugh to myself, as I have saved recipes myself from Mrs. Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton,(and even Ann Landers). They have to be good, look at the prestige from these recipes, they were used in THE WHITE HOUSE ! "These pickles will never wither or become white or pithy". I read the recipes for cucumbers with a smile. "Wash carefully without removing the prickles". I definitely want a pickle with a prickle, and I remember trying to grow gherkins, and what a disaster that was !

Who knew, a cook book could bring such a flood of memories. We cook on our stoves, gas, butane, electric,wood, we are all kinswomen with heart, cooking and sharing our recipes to the next generation, wanting the best only for our friends and family.

And I end this little story with my favorite quote.....'You can sprinkle it with sugar and bake it in the oven with love, but a cow pie is still manure".

My deceased Uncle Arthur Leo actually covered a cow pie with icing, and sent it to the neighbor's daughter, Annie Papcun, on her birthday. Talk about a feud !

My poor grandmother never could understand why Mrs. Papcun threw it over the fence back at her. My mother still laughs about it.

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