Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks

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JimInKy
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2003/11/23 06:39:48 (permalink)

Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks

A few years ago, I realized that if I’m to enjoy some favorite dishes from days gone by, I better learn to make them. The initial list was short: fruit cobblers, pickled eggs, fried pickled corn, Mom’s biscuits, fried green tomatoes, salsify casserole and chicken and dumplings.

A friend said that many of the recipes and instructions I needed could be found in those little cookbooks of local recipes assembled and sold by church groups and civic clubs all over the South, or in cookbooks once given away by flour mills and such.

I was at the Kentucky Book Fair a few weekends ago and had an epiphany when looking at an antiquarian bookseller’s display. Maybe I should start buying some of these little cookbooks, which clearly were put together with pride, care, and love.

I’m drawn to the thought that a mom or grandmother we never knew–someone who ministered to those she loved from her kitchen–can teach us about making the local version of Brunswick stew or give us the steps for putting up pickled corn. Some wonderful soul, like those ladies Clyde Edgerton writes about, helping this and future generations along!

The bookseller at the fair said he had a good selection of these cookbooks at the store, obtained in estate book sales. I’m not much of a collector, except for certain books, maps, information and Christmas music, but am thinking seriously about this.

Around a year ago, the local newspapers did a lefestyle story full of color photos about five local people who collect cookbooks. The paper missed my friend, Faithful, who has dozens of these local treasures, mostly ones put together by women in rural and small town churches.


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    ocdreamr
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/23 20:20:08 (permalink)
    I agree these are the best books out there. I have been gathering cookbooks since I was 12 (trust me that's a long time) The first book I got was a little thing the size of index cards, held together by rings. I got it at the museum in St. Michaels MD. Since then, I have gone through all the fads, famous chefs & techniques. Through all of this I continued to pick up small regional books as I traveled. The ones done by local church ladies & the Local Junior Leagues. Recently I have made it my goal to own locally done books from every state in the union. I'm well on my way. Before I buy any more I need to sit down & make a log of which states I have. I try to keep the publishing dates on these books to prior to the mid 70's I find from that period forward they all seem to have the same recipes. The homogenization of America! Used booksellers are a good source but another one is charity shops. I have picked up some really good buys in them for a dollar or two a piece. And don't forget ebay, a good place to get a hard to find region.
    #2
    drchanterelle
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/25 15:06:09 (permalink)
    JimInKy,
    These books are wildly popular, much for the reasons you noted. As a cookbook collector, I now have over 200 of those, mostly secured on E-Bay. But here's what I've learned about them:
    * Not all Church/Civic cookbooks are good - some are downright bad!
    * Most thrift stores today realize how much these are worth and have alternative outlets for them - most don't make to the shelves. Those I see in used book stores are priced per their popularity.
    * Many were done in the 50's and 60's when mainstream American cookery was based in canned soups and gelatine, not grandma's cherished recipes. Unfortunately, this was also the time when housewives started working too, and they were more interested in shortcut recipes than in making things the right way!
    * All too many of them were done in plastic ring bindings, which simply do not last long, especially when used.
    * I'd estimate that I own maybe 5 to 10 really good ones, and have found a dozen more good recipes in the others - But as they say, you've got to kiss a lot of frogs, ...

    However, having said all that, if I see these at garage sales, etc., I get all I can. If nothing else, they're fun! jm
    #3
    Lone Star
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/25 15:21:50 (permalink)
    They are fun and make for great reading. Just this week I found some of my grandmothers cookbooks I had packed away long ago. One was "The Gaspargilla Cookbook put out by the Tampa Junior League (Joonya league)c. 1962.

    I enjoyed reading it immensely and plan on trying some of the dishes. The descriptions were so over the top!

    It did seem strange to see the recipes submitted by Mrs. R.J. Smith or Mrs. Tom Turkey etc... didn't those ladies have names???

    #4
    i95
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/25 15:40:00 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Lone Star

    They are fun and make for great reading. Just this week I found some of my grandmothers cookbooks I had packed away long ago. One was "The Gaspargilla Cookbook put out by the Tampa Junior League (Joonya league)c. 1962.

    I enjoyed reading it immensely and plan on trying some of the dishes. The descriptions were so over the top!

    It did seem strange to see the recipes submitted by Mrs. R.J. Smith or Mrs. Tom Turkey etc... didn't those ladies have names???




    Lone Star:

    I know my wife would agree with you regarding the often fabulous local Junior League cookbooks out there. She swears by the Greater Washington (DC) Junior League's hardbound book published some years back.

    It may not be "road food" but as the missus says, it's all good.
    #5
    ocdreamr
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/25 22:43:45 (permalink)
    What makes the Junior League books so good is that they require that all the recipes be tested by a couple of diferent people. This elimenates just plain bad recipes & keeps "Old Mrs. Smith" from leaving out the one special ingrediant in her recipe. Both of which are problems that show up in many a church & PTA cookbook.
    #6
    EliseT
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/26 03:56:55 (permalink)
    I love these books! If I were to go for a Foodology Phd I think I could track the origin and spread of recipes through these books. They tell you so much about an era and a community. Having had my own entries be the victims of awful typos, I do take some recipes with a grain of salt. But published in these books are that ONE recipe that Mrs. Tom Turkey is most proud of and is choosing to represent herself to her community. For the most part they are the best and brightest. I mostly stick to breads, desserts and classics since alot of the fads ARE truly frightening. But that's half the fun. Maybe we should start a thread of our favorite awful recipes like ground hotdog loaf.
    #7
    Julia I
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/26 07:59:29 (permalink)
    Estate sales are indeed a good place to find these. I have one from 1930 that I bought at an estate sale. It's hard cover and was published by the local paper, but inside it is pure women's club in style and contents. My grandmother had a recipe in it!
    #8
    dendan
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/11/26 08:41:08 (permalink)
    We would recommend the great Charleston, SC cookbooks. See: http://www.jlcharleston.org/Cookbook.htm
    The Junior League has been puting these out for years. Have one from the late 50's and one from the mid-70's. We use them quite a bit..
    #9
    dendan
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/12/12 14:04:37 (permalink)
    Not exactly on topic - but a great resource for soul food, it seems... http://www.chitterlings.com/index.html
    #10
    marberthenad
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/12/12 21:33:23 (permalink)
    My favourite club or church book, is the United Nations Women's Auxillary Cookbook, published in the late 1970s that includes recipes for appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts from the countries of the world. Great recipes -- and folksy enough to qualify it for any local women's auxillary cookbook!
    #11
    Pwingsx
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/12/13 01:23:42 (permalink)
    I used to housesit/dogsit for a woman who was the kindergarten teacher for my three youngest sisters back in the seventies. She was Jewish, and being from Boulder, CO, we had almost no exposure to any ethnic cooking at all. I would spend hours every night just poring through her cookbooks, including collections from schools and different communities dating back from the fifties to the present. All very home-made and down home. I was in pure hog heaven.
    #12
    EdSails
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2003/12/13 14:38:07 (permalink)
    I have books from the Junior League of Hawaii (excellent), ORT (Jewish service organization), local churches and others. I can't say they are the greatest treasure trove of useful recipes for what I cook (although the Hawaiian one I use constantly and the ORT book has some great Jewish holiday recipes) but I find them immensely pleasurable to read just for their glimpe of "Americana", dishes I've heard of but never found in a "serious" cookbook. Where else can you find 6 versions of "Hot Dog Surprise"?
    #13
    JimInKy
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2004/01/16 06:51:34 (permalink)
    I have learned a great deal from all the postings to this forum and cannot thank everyone enough. I printed your replies to share with the friend who pointed me toward these cookbooks.

    drchanterelle's suggestions were particularly useful to me, and should help me avoid cookbooks I would not value.

    To ocdreamr and anyone else looking for a quality Kentucky cookbook of this genre (complete with the plastic ring binding), I can enthusiastically recommend one I use all the time.

    In 1965, the Hueyville, Ky. Church of Christ needed a new roof and member Irene Hays came up with the idea of collecting and publishing recipes under the title of What's Cooking in Kentucky. The initial press run of 1,500 copies was sold and the church got a new roof. It was so popular, more printings were ordered and the book has now sold over 200,000 copies. I've bought two copies.

    The $22.95 book can be bought at bookstores, Kentucky state park gift shops or from:

    T.I. Hayes
    P.O. Box 17352
    Fort Mitchell, KY 41017

    Checks and money orders only. Shipping is $3.50 (add $ .75 for each additional book)
    #14
    RubyRose
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    RE: Celebrating church and club women’s cookbooks 2004/01/16 08:14:17 (permalink)
    For many years, our Friends of the Library group has a massive book sale every spring with thousands of books, all separated into catagories, authors, etc. For years, one lady who drove all the way from Massachusetts to our sale in east central PA just to buy the community cookbooks. Last year, we advertised on the internet and on the opening morning, we had a larger than usual swarm of customers pawing through that section. The community cookbooks and old manufacturer giveaway cooking booklets are always one of the first to go.
    #15
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