Precious Parcel Proves Past is Priceless!

 From the inside cover of my grandmother's cook book from 1947!  This colorful selection of petit fours is just the kind of photo La Diva would be fascinated with when looking at my mom's cookbooks when I was a kid.  The colors, the shapes, the intricacy of these delightful little cakes would have me wondering if they would taste as delicious as they looked.

 Darlings!  La Diva received a surprise parcel in the post this week and my curiosity was pleasantly piqued.  My cousin from Michigan told me a while back that she was going to send it to me and I had completely forgotten!  La Diva was so excited, because I knew it would contain possessions of my recently deceased maternal grandmother and it would hold treasures along with clues about her lifestyle.

I approached the heavy box like something unearthed from ancient times and carefully began unpacking each item with delight and wonder.  Most of the things in the box pertained to food (naturally!) and it was loaded with cookbooks.  Inside were a few vintage glass serving dishes,  most likely from the 60's,  a recipe for my cousin's lemon meringue pie, grandpa's favorite cocktail mixing spoon (a treasure!) and a box of Jiffy corn bread with an accompanying recipe book (I didn't know the Jiffy cornbread company was from Michigan?!  It's been produced by the Chelsea Milling Co. since the 1800's!)

A small gold box held a few pieces of grandma's costume jewelry, which I knew she loved.  It included a fabulous iridescent lime green rhinestone ring that really caught the light and La Diva can not wait to wear it.  The most precious item of all was my mother's prayer card with her death notice from the paper, carefully kept in a plastic sleeve with a pressed four leaf clover. 

The book booty were all from my cousin:  A Mario Batali cookbook, one on cooking with citrus, another one with sustainable fish recipes and a nice fat hard covered one called T"he Book of Hors d'Oeuvres and Canapes" (always USEFUL to a party-throwing Diva!)  Then there was the biographies of Julia Child called "Appetite for Life," Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone," and "Julie and "Julia."  Wow.  La Diva scored, thanks CUZ!

But the most precious book of all came from my grandmother's house:  The United States Regional Cook Book that was edited by Ruth Berolzheimer and contributed to by dozens of home economists, home cooks and housewives.

I just LOVE books like this!  It was published in 1947 and is illustrated along with those ultra-bright and not-true-to-life food photographs.  Regional recipes from that time differ greatly from today with more of a focus on European food from the immigrants of Dutch, Scandinavian,  French and Spanish countries. 

Pawing through its pages, I wondered how often my grandmother had used this book?   After all, Heather told me Grandma had over 250 cookbooks!    Did my mother look at this book as a little girl as I looked at hers?  Was it a favorite?  Or a family standby used for a number of traditional recipes?   Or perhaps it was pulled out for some exotic recipe for a special occasion?  La Diva doubted it was a favorite.  Though the pages were faded and yellowed, it appeared not to have been used very much as the usual evidence of a well-thumbed cooking tome were missing:  dog eared pages, unidentifiable food stains and perhaps the odd coffee cup ring or wine stain.

The Auxiliary Recipes include classic kitchen basics:  icings, frosting, sweet and savory sauces, a variety of dumpling, dressings and stuffing recipes, all the classics of the time.  The cookbook is divided into regional styles of the United States and the book boasts that each section is like having a different cookbook.  

The last chapter of the "Cosmopolitan America Cook Book" contained global ethnic recipes like Himken Bayandi (Armenian Lamb with Eggplant), Neapolitan Spaghetti, Palestinian Sweet Potato and Prune Zimes.

Michigan Dutch?  I had no idea they made up so much of the population at one time in our state to be so influential in the cooking style.  Of course!  It's all coming back to me!  Holland Michigan, the tulip festival, wooden Dutch shoe souvenirs acquired on trips from my youth.....

You know what?  I kinda like the idea of putting a fat sausage into the sides of a good 'ol meatloaf for additional flavor.  These recipes are going to be so much fun to check out!  I love to see what we used to eat in our country.

Every chapter and region begins with a scenic print.

The book is peppered with vignettes like this one about the creation of the yummy fried corn cakes known as "hush puppies."  It's interesting to note the editor's choice of the term "darkies" as a completely normal way to describe African Americans.  

Take a look at these tantalizing technicolor tidbits!

La Diva is utterly enthralled with this book!  For the photos and the recipes that no longer mirror our culture, the ones that do,  for the stories and the commentary.  I will certainly treasure this.  Thank you, Cousin, not just for a book that is a culinary window to our past but also a personal link to someone I never knew but was a part of me.

Meanwhile, if any of my darlings out there is looking for a recipe from the past, perhaps for "Goose Livers in Jelly," "Broiled Elk Steak,"  "Gombo File" or maybe some "Valencia Tamale Pie," just let La Diva know, I'll be happy to share precious pieces of my time-worn tome!

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intuitive eggplant said...

What a lovely parcel. What a lovely post. That last photo especially reminds me of pix from some of my mom’s old cookbooks – down to the iceberg lettuce. Being a game girl, I’d love to hear the recipe for broiled elk steak. You mean you need a recipe for that? Have a great weekend!

Boxer said...

As a youth, I loved the idea of petite fours and always wanted to make them. Not easy! And kind of a lost food/art, right? No one makes them anymore. Is that because women don't have teas? Or because it's hard frosting those little suckers.

Mr. Boxer's Mother left a large cook book collection and I wish you lived closer because it would be fun to have you look through them.

Have a wonderful LaDiva. I know it will be fabulous.

Velva said...

What you have is priceless. I hope that you will pass it down when it is time to the next generation. This is a most wonderful parcel to receive in the mail.
You can tell where you get your love of cooking.


P.S. Next time in MIami I would love to share a cocktail with you.

Happy 4th!

Dani said...

That was so wonderful of your cousin!!! Enjoy. :)

LaDivaCucina said...

HI Eggy, thanks, I'll scan and send to you, there are a number of game recipes, quite a lot actually! they also include pigeon, grouse, rabbit, venison, opossum!

Boxer the thing that fascinates me the most is how they took the time to make many of them different instead of just a couple of varieties. Publix still makes petit fours! Yes, I wish we lived closer too...

Thanks Velva! for your comments and for stopping by. Not looking too good for the the future generation in my family, the girl can barely make toast and the boy just wants to eat food and be waited on, not make it! haha! Have a great Fourth y'all!

LaDivaCucina said...

Dani, hope you have a lovely weekend with your lovely family! x

buffalodick said...

I'm of Dutch descent, and live in Grand Rapids...most Dutch recipes are found in local church cook books, and Hope College(Reformed church based) put out a great one from all churches in the area...I have two copies!

Foodessa said...

Instead of the tons of beautiful linens I had received from my Nonna...I wouldn't have minded getting a treasure chest of food related goodies like the one you got. I don't want to sound ungrateful...however, there are so many stacks of bed sheets I'd want to keep ironing!!!
My Nonna wasn't strong on recipe books...everything was on the fly in her kitchen. I guess this is where free-style cooking came from.

Have a happy celebratory day and flvourful wishes,

Making Space said...

What a treasure of a gift - enjoy!! Love the old photos.

moi said...

Wow. What a treasure! I love vintage cookbooks and have quite a few that belonged to my mother, including Cook, My Darling Daughter, out of which I still cook. They're wonderful historical documents on so many levels.

Hope you and the D.J. enjoyed a wonderful Fourth. Were there fireworks over the bay?

Oh, and: Goose Livers in Jelly?!? Send it!

Floridacracker said...

It would be a neat find if it were just a book, but to be your grandmother's ... well, that just makes it extra special.

Heff said...

Preciously Pretty I Proudly Pronounce !

chickory said...

what a haul, girl. a connection to the past in technicolor. amazing food - corn fried in deep fat? like thats hard....LOL...

the petit fours are gorgeous. i would like to decorate each one unique if i knew how to do it. are they just cake pieces that were cut, or is there a shaped pan for them?

i made 200 jello shots once...layered different colors in one cup -some whipped for pastel -others left clear...pudding was in a few and others had took days. but boy didnt they look cool on a tray.

your grandmother will live forever in your heart and on the table. preparing a beautiful meal and serving it with style is an act of extreme love. lucky are they who sit at your table.

LaDivaCucina said...

BD, Wow! I wonder when your family came over, do you know the story?

Si, Claudia, you cannot eat Nonna's sheets, no!

Thanks MS! Miss you!

I love the title of your cookbook, Moi. I can read cookbooks like regular books, our whole family is like that...goose livers in jelly on its way!

FC, I love clues to the past esp. when they are to people's lives I don't know well. So interesting.

Heff: LOL!

Chickory, I think the cakes are made and then cut and then dipped in various icings. I don't think I've ever seen a petit four mold? Anyone?

I love the idea of the layered jello shots, that takes some patience but man, are they good!

Thanks for the sweet comments, y'all! x

Julia Cates said...

This is a most wonderful parcel to receive in the mail.the petit fours are gorgeous.

Big Shamu said...

You know I loves me some old cookbook and food pamphlets. I must confess I generally buy for the artwork, not the recipes. There's only so much jellied items I can take.
Nice job.

Diana Jo said...

Hello, thank you for sharing! Could you please tell me the name of the cookbook you got the picture of the petit fours from? My mother had that very same cookbook, I have been looking for years for another one like it. Your help would be greatly appreciated!