Community cookbooks have a head start on the community based web sites such as PINTEREST and Food52 and the gazillion sites that inhabit the blog universe. For as far back as I can remember these spiral-bound gems were the go to source for everything from recipes, stain and spot removal and advertisements for local businesses and the history of the organization that published the book or for a local charity. NPR in an article on their web site says most began as a way to raise funds for a common goal. In America, the first of these charity cookbooks was A Poetical Cookbook by Maria J. Moss, which was published and sold in 1864 to subsidize medical costs for Union soldiers injured in the Civil War. "She compiled the recipes on her own, then she thought, 'Let's see if we can use it to make some money to help the wounded soldiers,'" Andrew Smith, professor of Food Studies at The New School in New York City.
I pulled out two from my collection that I have used before and they represent an age that is passing us by. The first is The Opp Cookbook. It is "A Collection of Recipes of the Opp Historical Society" They note that their recipes "try to preserve the old and the new by passing on recipes that are traditional and contemporary." I could not find a date in the cookbook, but I like the recipes and the organization of the book, it's easy to use. And it is from Alabama. The shift from traditional to contemporary recipes show in the names at the end of the recipes. It will have Mrs. Robert Lockley and then in italics Paula. My older cookbooks all have Mrs. and the husband's name.
My oldest book, which was handed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me, is the Uvalde County Home Demonstration Council book, "What's Cookin' in Uvalde"
Published in 1948, it has Beauty Hints, Household Hints (Box crackers will keep fresher and crisper if stored in the pots and pans drawer of your stove), Cooking Tips (to eliminate cabbage odor from cooking cabbage drop a whole walnut into the boiling water). A sometime confusing part of these older cookbooks is the measuring of ingredients. A recipe for CHOW CHOW calls for 1 zinc bucket tomatoes.
My grandfather had a half page ad in the cookbook and his phone number was 24. Another interesting note is every recipe that calls for milk, calls for Leona Valley Creamery Grade "A" Pasteurized milk. Bet you know why?
I think it is still a matter of pride on the number of recipes that your grandmother or you yourself have in a cookbook. And of course there are the remarks about Mrs. Melvin Robertson's recipe for Baked Rhubarb with Lattice Top. "It's O.K. but there is too much lemon juice!" My collection has books with added notes like, "Any cake recipe by Mrs. Clarence Birdwell is delicious." The pages of your favorite recipes have smear marks of the ingredients.
A reprint I have of "The Housekeeper's Friend" published in 1896, has recipes that seem to have lost favor with the timid eaters of today. Recipes like Pickled Chicken. A recipe for Tongue and Prunes is fairly simple and if you like tongue as I do, this might be worth a try.
Get a fresh tongue, parboil and skin it, add a pound of prunes, a cupful of brown sugar, and spices to taste; let it stew until well done; when nearly done add one lemon. Mr. I. R. Godwin.
My favorite tip from this cookbook is "What to do When One is Struck by Lightning". Throw water over a person struck by lightning. Duh
Skip ahead sixty odd years, and we hear people talk about PINTEREST, Epicurious, Food Network, Food.com, Gojee, Yummly, and Taste of Home to name but a very few food web sites. Not to mention all the food blogs you can follow. Then, you can follow chefs and their websites or blogs. There are online news magazines that you can customize. I follow about fifteen food "magazines" online. Online food news can bring you the latest trends (farm to table) and the newest health warnings (there are other listeria discoveries in ice cream besides Blue Bell).
Fast food is always hitting you in the face (on TV) and hitting you in the pocket book and the waist line. There is group called "Slow Food" that advocates ideas that are at the very core of Southern cuisine: Support Local Farmers, Eating well should taste good and be a pleasure, support agriculture, seeds (not to eat but to protect local cuisines and farmers), and get together (sharing food and talking about food to help protect the future of regional cuisines.)
To do your part to protect regional cuisines and Southern cuisine, go out to eat at restaurants that serve Southern cuisine. My latest contribution was a restaurant named SISSY'S in Dallas. I even eat Southern on vacation! Purple Hulled Pea Cakes was my appetizer, Batter Fries Soft Shell Crab with Creole sweet potato hash was my entree, and pecan pie was my dessert. Of course, I had the two people with me order fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits and roasted redfish with corn maque choux. That way I could try other items on the menu. The drinks were samplings of Kentucky's finest water.
So the recipe today is for Purple Hulled Pea Cakes. To me this could have been the first veggie burger. I could not get the recipe from Sissy's, but I found one online at BigOven.com. I find good recipes here and this one works well. Adding the jalapeno and Serrano peppers makes it savory.
I am making up a list of foods that every Southerner should know how to cook. My problem is that the list keeps getting longer and longer. So far I have 22 different items. I need your help with suggestions and eventually make up a list of about 15 thing you think that every Southerner Should Know How to Cook. I'm going to start and add buttermilk biscuits and pecan pie.
What do you think should be on the list?
Please respond to: firstname.lastname@example.org • P. O.Box 253 • Lowndesboro, AL 36752