Kitchen Treasures

14 Aug

Recently, I decided to go through all those recipes that I’ve collected over the years. Which one’s worked, which one’s didn’t and toss the ones I know I’ll never make.

As I was sorting, I came across an old church cookbook from 1948, printed by the Progressive Print Shop, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Some of the pages are so well loved that they’ve come loose from the spiral binding. They’re stained, torn with faded, hand-written notes in the margins. And there isn’t a low fat entry in the whole book.

But it has some of the most interesting recipes in it.

Iced Tea

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon tea

2 whole cloves

Pour fresh boiling water over tea and cloves. Let stand two minutes. Strain, cool, add ice and more water if desired. Sweeten to taste. Lime or lemon juice makes a more snappy drink.

I’ve never heard of putting cloves in tea. But what a great added tidbit to add to a character. Think of the backstory. A young man or woman who adds cloves to their tea because their mother or grandmother did. Maybe granny/nanna/mema etc. raised them because of some tragedy or odd circumstances. What if their father went away to seek his fortune and never returned?

Or what if the main character receives their grandmother’s recipe book and in it they find something that changes their life? You get the idea.

I found recipes for cranberry pie, raisin pie, and something called bridge pie. I’m guessing the last one refers to the game and not something you could use to span a river.

All the entries in this old book are interesting. It’s a glimpse into the 1940’s. How they ate and, if you look closely, you can glean a life style that is far removed from today’s. Raw eggs in fillings, and even a recipe for hand lotion. It calls for things I bet you can only get on the internet these days. Gum tragecauth, carolic acid, bay rum, and bergamont oil. Interesting.

One unexpected treat was the discovery of some of my mother’s great cookie recipes that I thought were lost to moving and time. I found she marked those she liked with an “X”.

When you get to the back of this 100-page publication you come to the ads. “Galles, Redwood Falls, Exclusively Ladies’ Ready-to-wear.” No address, no phone number, just the town name. Everyone probably knew where it was so there was no need for all that pesky information. One of my favorites is: “Norge Home appliances for better living, The Music Store Tel. 453.” Yes, that’s the whole phone number. In all the ads, I only came across one phone number that had more than three numbers. But the one that intrigued me was the last one in the book. “Protect your feet, they are your main support, Johnson’s shoe store, free x-ray service.” Wow, really? Free x-ray in a shoe store.

I’m inspired to look for cookbooks published in the era in which I plan to write. I have an old Whole Earth cookbook from the early 1970’s that could be very interesting. Next time I visit an antique shop, I’m going to seek out the cookbooks. Who knows what treasures lurk there.

Have you found inspiration in unlikely places?


Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Idaho


20 responses to “Kitchen Treasures

  1. Liz Fredericks

    August 14, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    This is a BRILLIANT approach! I love the idea of getting the texture of the times via food. I remember when ‘like water for chocolate’ was the rage and one analyst argued it was because the author took us to a visceral place with food . . . so apparently, it automatically leads characters and readers to all things primitive and basic . . . you get the picture. NICE Peggy!

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 14, 2012 at 8:32 AM

      Thanks. And to think it’s been on my shelf for years. Sigh. I’m going to have a look around for other things that seem to be innocuous for inspiration.

  2. Mary Roya

    August 14, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    I know that I kept my Mother’s old Methodist Church cook book. But it didn’t have anything near as interesting as yours. Now I have to go get it and check it. Enjoyed your blog.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    August 14, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    I was amazed when I found the old cookbook. I think it added a layer of texture because it came from a very small Midwest town. And I’m always excited to find another source of inspiration.

  4. Judith Keim

    August 14, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    I love old cookbooks! As you have noted, they contain many stories and seeds for stories! My mother was a wonderful cook. Our family is putting together a family book of her recipes, along with adaptations of them. My mother’s idea of a recipe was a dash of this, a dash of that and the degrees at which you cook it. We laugh about it now because the only way you’d know how to prepare it was to have worked with her in the kitchen. Can you tell we’re a family of foodies?

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 14, 2012 at 8:36 AM

      There is a reason why at parties everyone ends up in the kitchen. My mother’s everyday cooking was pretty mundane. A meat–or meat like substance–a veggie, potatoes, and fruit. Very Midwest. But when it came to baking she could hold her ground with anyone. Best cookies ever. With the discovery of this book I now have all those great recipes.

  5. Janis McCurry

    August 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    I found an old ruled booklet of my grandmother’s where she’d handwritten her recipes. Every year, my sister and I make her bakkels. She even drew a picture of how you cut them out. Solid gold.

  6. Peggy Staggs

    August 14, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    What a treat. I wish I had some of my grandmother’s old cookbooks. And I really wish I had some of my grandfather’s. He was a baker. That would be wonderful.

  7. ValRoberts

    August 14, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Tragecauth gum? Great googly moogly, I hope that wasn’t used in food. You actually can get it locally…at Tandy’s. And the carolic acid, I think had a typo; carbolic acid was commonly available in the 1940s as a disinfectant. In fact, it’s still the active ingredient in Chloraseptic.

    Oh great, the chemist got out again. Back, woman, back to your lab! Back!

    Great post, Peggy — I’m going to try cloves in my next batch of real iced tea (I don’t really care for sun tea; it always tastes bitter to me).

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 14, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      You know, I don’t remember what they were using the tragecauth gum for. I just picked it out because I had absolutely no idea what it was. Could have been in some cleaning stuff.
      Let me know how the tea tastes.

  8. Charlene Ann Baumbich

    August 14, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    I’m old enough to remember when X-ray machines were in nearly all the shoe stores! You stood upright and put your feet in the slot. It showed an X-ray of your foot, which helped with sizing. Oh, boy! Here’s a picture of one and a little history.

    I love your post. I’m addicted to old cook books and have been known to stand at estate sales and CRY over them. Especially ones that are all marked up and have bits of paper with recipes stuck in them with titles like Aunt Mable;s Caramel Frosting or Grandma’s Special Beans … To think that all that personal family history is being sold for 50 cents to a stranger …


  9. Peggy Staggs

    August 14, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    I never thought of estate sales. Next time I see one I’m going to stop. No one is going to be going through the cookbooks…except us. I don’t think many people understand what they are giving up.

  10. maryvine

    August 14, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    I’m so glad you found the cookie recipes you’d thought you’d lost. My sister and I have enjoyed cooking some of Mom’s favorites. What a great unique blog post and a great addition to any story. Thanks, Peggy!

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 15, 2012 at 7:48 AM

      It’s amazing what is on the shelves of your very own kitchen. Family history, traditions, and cookies.

  11. Lynn Mapp

    August 14, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Think of the history you held in your hands. Wow. Was it your mother’s cookbook? You’re right. There are many stories that can unfold by holding that cookbook. Great post.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 15, 2012 at 7:50 AM

      Yes, it was my mother’s. I’m a military brat just like you are. And as one you know how few things are saved when moving time comes.

  12. Meredith Conner

    August 15, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    My mom has a an old family bible. She was looking through it the other day and at the very back she discovered my name and my sister’s name written down in her mother’s handwriting, with our birth dates listed. My mother named me: Meredith Allen. No middle name. My grandmother named me: Meredith Christine Allen after her given name.

    • Peggy Staggs

      August 15, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Great discovery. Christine. I like it. I wish we had a family bible. All I have is a not-so-filled-in baby book.

  13. Clarissa Southwick

    August 19, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    What a great source of inspiration. I love to put food into my stories. Another odd source? My family’s geneology. I’ve been organizing old photos with my mother, and I swear you can’t make this stuff up. It practically writes the novel for you. Now, if I could just find a way to disguise it, so nobody will know where I got the idea. . .Great post, Peggy!

  14. Peggy Staggs

    August 20, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Thanks. I wish I had those old pictures. My sister got them all. I’ll have to twist her arm and get them.


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